Attack on US military base in Texas follows similar assault in Florida

A 20-year-old college student, Adam Alsahli, was formally named by the FBI on Friday as the gunman who attempted to carry out an assault on Thursday at a US Navy base in Texas.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – A 20-year-old college student, Adam Alsahli, was formally named by the FBI on Friday as the gunman who attempted to carry out an assault on Thursday at a US Navy base in Texas.

Alsahli failed to gain entry onto the base, but an ensuing exchange of gunfire left him dead, while a sailor, a member of the base security force, was lightly wounded.

Thursday’s attempted attack followed three days after the Justice Department announced that a Saudi military officer who carried out an attack in December on another US Navy base, in Florida, in which several US servicemen were killed, had links to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP.)

It was first thought the Saudi officer, Ahmed al-Shamrani, had acted alone, and his assault had been a so-called “lone wolf” attack. But as Attorney General William Barr and the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, explained to reporters on Monday, once investigators were able to unlock Shamrani’s two phones, they discovered that he had close, long-standing ties to AQAP.

Texas Attack

Born in Syria, Alsahli was also a US citizen. He lived in Corpus Christi, home to the US Navy base that he targeted, some 200 miles southwest of Houston, on the Texas coast, along the Gulf of Mexico.

At dawn on Thursday, Alsahli tried to enter the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, driving to an entrance, where his vehicle was stopped by a guard, a member of the base security force. Although Alsahli shot and wounded her, she managed to roll over and flip a switch to raise a barrier. As Alsahli accelerated, trying to bypass the gate, his car crashed into the barrier.

Alsahli then stepped out of his car and began shooting. Navy Security Forces returned fire, and Alsahli was killed.

Investigators checking Alsahli’s social media accounts quickly discovered postings that supported ISIS and AQAP, CNN reported.

A screenshot of Alsahli's Twitter page.
A screenshot of Alsahli's Twitter page.

“We have determined that the incident this morning at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi is terrorism-related,” the FBI said at a press conference later that day.

The FBI also announced it was pursuing a second person of interest, although no further information about that individual has emerged.

Alsahli had been a student at a local community college, Del Mar College, majoring in business administration, having been registered there for the fall of 2018 through the fall of 2019.

Local media reported that Alsahli had no criminal record, although, in August, he had received a traffic ticket for failure to yield. The ticket was dismissed in January after he took a driver’s safety course.


A photo of Alsahli from Del Mar College.
A photo of Alsahli from Del Mar College.

Shooting at Florida Naval Base

A Saudi Air Force officer, Second Lt. Ahmed al-Shamrani, was in a training program at a US Navy base in Florida, when on the morning of Dec. 6, he opened fire in a classroom on the base, killing three US sailors, while wounding eight other people, before he, himself, was shot and killed.

Shortly before the attack, the 21-year-old gunman posted tweets, addressed to “O American people” and denouncing the US as “a nation of evil” for its support of Israel and stationing troops in Saudi Arabia.

The night before the attack, Shamrani hosted a dinner party for other Saudi students in the program, and they watched videos of mass shootings.

The week before, over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, Shamrani and three other Saudis travelled to New York, where they visited the memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

It later emerged that in September, on the anniversary of those attacks, Shamrani had posted a message on social media, “The countdown has begun.”

A photo of Shamrani the FBI released.
A photo of Shamrani the FBI released.

Yet already on Dec. 7, the day after Shamrani’s attack, The New York Times, citing an anonymous source, which it identified as a “senior American official who was also not authorized to speak publicly,” reported, “The gunman did not have any apparent ties to international terrorist groups.”

“How could anyone have known, just a day afterward?” a former Pentagon official told Kurdistan 24, as he sharply criticized those US officials who make such statements before any serious investigation has even begun, as well as the Times for reporting such statements.

“Most probably,” he continued, “there are a significant number of other attacks that we’ve attributed to ‘lone wolves’ which actually involved elements abroad,” as he added, “We cannot reasonably hope to defeat an enemy that we don’t actually make the effort to understand.”

Qasim al Rimi and AQAP: Dead Men Talking

On Jan. 31, The New York Times reported that a US airstrike in Yemen earlier that month had killed Qassim al-Rimi, a Yemeni, then the head of AQAP. The US had long sought to capture or kill Rimi. In 2017, a Navy Seal died in Yemen in an operation targeting him.

Last November, the CIA learned of Rimi’s location from an informant in Yemen, the Times reported, and the assassination followed two months later.

On Feb. 2, shortly after Rimi’s death and immediately after the Times’ report, AQAP released a video, claiming credit for the attack on the Pensacola naval base. The 18-minute video included audio of Rimi claiming “full responsibility” for Shamrani’s assault while calling him, “the hero, the courageous knight.”

That same day, President Donald Trump tweeted the Times’ report, thus appearing to confirm Rimi’s death. On Feb. 6, the White House issued a formal statement that he had, indeed, been killed.

AQAP’s previous leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, another Yemeni, was killed in a US drone strike in 2015.

Shamrani and AQAP

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that the FBI had succeeded in accessing the contents of Shamrani’s two iPhones. They stressed that they had appealed to Apple to assist them, but it had refused to do so, despite a court order authorizing the FBI to examine the phones.

As Barr told journalists, “The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes al-Shamrani’s significant ties to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.”

They included an individual, Abdullah al-Maliki, Barr continued, whom the US had recently targeted, based on the information discovered in Shamrani’s phones.

Citing a “senior US official,” on May 18, the Times reported that Maliki had been “killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in the past week or so.”

“As far back as 2015” – when Shamrani was just 16 years old – he was already communicating with AQAP and had expressed a desire to carry out a “special operation,” even before he joined the Saudi Air Force, Wray explained.

Shamrani continued to communicate with AQAP, even while he was in the US and “continued to confer with his AQAP associates right until the end, the very night before he started shooting,” Wray said.

AQAP was established in January 2009, with the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni parts of the original al-Qaida. Wuhayshi and Rimi were both founding members of the new terrorist group.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany