FBI finds link between Pensacola gunman and al-Qaida

Attorney General William Barr (left) and FBI Director Christopher Ray (right) meet during the announcement of a crime reduction initiative designed to reduce crime in Detroit December 18, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Federal law enforcement officials tore Apple apart from cooperating on Monday after detailing a link between an Al-Qaeda operative and the gunman in a deadly attack on a military base in December .

Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray held a press conference to announce the progress of the shooting at Pensacola Naval Air Station. On December 6, the Saudi Air Force lieutenant, Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, killed three American sailors and injured eight others at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The 21-year-old gunman was also killed in the attack.

The Justice Department had previously asked Apple to help extract data from two shooter-owned iPhones, including one that authorities say wounded Alshamrani with a bullet after being confronted by law enforcement.

“We have received no help from Apple,” Wray said on Monday. “The crucial evidence on the killer’s phones has been hidden from us, we have done all these investigations, without knowing what we know now, precious information about what to ask, what to look for”, a- he added alongside Barr.

“I have not seen any sign that Apple has moved the needle or is ready to try to move the needle,” said Barr, adding that Apple’s move could set a dangerous precedent in the justice system. criminal.

“For some reason, some tech companies feel that they are above that and that they can unilaterally make decisions based on their business interests and whatever the dangers to the public and we cannot leave that happen, “he added.

In a statement released Monday, Apple dismissed the charges that the company had worked “24 hours a day with the FBI and other investigators to keep Americans safe and bring criminals to justice.”

“As a proud American company, we believe that supporting the important work of law enforcement is our responsibility. False allegations made about our business are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security, “the statement added.

Apple previously said it had “produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation” and provided “gigabytes of information”, including “iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts”.

“We have always maintained that there is no backdoor just for the good,” the company said in a statement in January. “Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the security of our customers’ data,” added the tech giant.

Read more: Apple denies government request to unlock Pensacola firing suspect’s iPhones

Contacts between the shooter and the Al-Qaida agent were discovered on the shooter’s phone. In addition, the Al-Qaida branch in Yemen published a video claiming the attack. The branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has long been considered the most dangerous branch of the global network and has attempted to carry out attacks on the American continent.

Law enforcement officials have left no doubt that Alshamrani was motivated by jihadist ideology, claiming that he visited a New York City memorial for the September 11, 2001 attacks, over the Thanksgiving weekend and posted anti-American and anti-Israeli messages on social media. barely two hours before filming.

“This is an act of terrorism,” said Barr at a press conference in January. “The evidence showed that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology. During the investigation, we learned that the shooter published a message on September 11 this year, stating:” The countdown has start “”.

Saudi Arabia provided “full and complete support” to the US investigation into the incident, Barr said.

In January, US officials announced that they were sending 21 Saudi military students home after an investigation found that they had jihadist or anti-American feelings on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography. “

Barr said at the time that Saudi Arabia had agreed to review the conduct of the 21 to see if they should face military discipline and to dismiss anyone whom the United States later determines should face accusations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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