Nearly 175 Saudi military aviation students grounded in US after NAS Pensacola shooting

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Saudi Arabia Defense Attache Major General Fawaz Al Fawaz and his Embassy staff and other officials arrive to meet with the Saudi students who remain restricted to the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola base by their Saudi commanding officer, in Pensacola, Florida, U.S. December 9, 2019.( FBI Jacksonville/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 175 Saudi Arabian military aviation students have been grounded as part of a "safety stand-down" after a Saudi Air Force lieutenant shot and killed three people last week at a U.S. Navy base in Florida, U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.


The FBI has said U.S. investigators believe Saudi Air Force Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, acted alone when he attacked a U.S. Navy base in Pensacola, Florida on Friday, before he was fatally shot by a deputy sheriff.

"A safety stand-down and operational pause commenced Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students," said Lieutenant Andriana Genualdi, a Navy spokeswoman.

Another U.S. official said the grounding was to help Saudi students prepare to eventually restart their training and similar procedures would have been taken if such an incident took place in a U.S. military squadron.

Genualdi said the grounding included three different military facilities: Naval Air Station Pensacola, Naval Air Station Whiting Field and Naval Air Station Mayport, all in Florida.

She added that while it was unclear when the Saudi students would be allowed to fly again, their classroom training was expected to resume soon. She added that aviation training had resumed for students from other countries.

There are currently about 850 Saudi students in the United States for military training.

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