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Screening Enhanced for Saudi Military Students After Shooting

More than 20 Saudi students receiving military training in the United States will be sent back to Saudi Arabia following a Pentagon review of the Saudi officer who killed three people and wounded eight more in December 2019 at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.

The students who will be removed from the United States raised multiple concerns among U.S. federal investigators, NPR reports. Some trainees failed to alert authorities about the shooter’s extremist learnings, and investigators said they believe others watched videos of mass shootings with the gunman at a party before the attack. Other Saudi students are being expelled because they viewed child pornography or were involved in extremist online chat rooms, officials said.

The students in question are not accused of helping the 21-year-old shooter. The shooting is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

The shooting prompted the Pentagon to suspend operational training of all Saudi Arabian military students in the Untied States indefinitely as investigators conduct security reviews of approximately 850 military students from Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in December that the Pentagon plans to review the screening process for foreign military students. In an interview on CBS show “Face the Nation,” Esper said the military was moving to address lapses in the vetting process.

“I’ve signed out directives that address enhanced screening of all of our foreign students that address credentialing going forward, weapons policies, etc.,” Esper said. “So we’re doing everything we can.”

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