The Saudi aviation student who killed three American sailors in a December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola had been in contact with Al Qaeda before carrying out the attack, law enforcement sources told Fox News.
The communication was discovered after investigators broke through the encryption on a phone belonging to gunman Mohammed Alshamrani, the sources said Monday.
- SUSPECT OPENS FIRED AT NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, 4 DEAD INCLUDING SHOOTER, HEROIC DEPUTIES AMONG THE INJURED
The FBI, following the Dec. 6 shooting, had asked Apple for help in accessing data from a pair of iPhones owned by the gunman, as investigators had been unsuccessful in unlocking the devices, reported Fox.
“We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of American people and prevent future attacks,” Barr said in January. He also called the attack an “act of terrorism,” noting that Alshamrani – a second lieutenant with the Royal Saudi Air Force – was “motivated by jihadist ideology.”
As the investigation unfolded, officials were critical of Apple for failing to cooperate, even though investigators had obtained search warrants based upon probable cause.
It does not appear that Apple yielded before federal agents were able to finally unlock access to search the contents of each phone.
Senior Justice Department officials told Fox News the 21-year-old shooter left a “trail of extremism” in the days and weeks leading up to the attack.
“During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11,  stating, ‘the countdown has begun,’” Barr said in January. “During the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
“He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, including two hours before his attack,” Barr added.
Senior law enforcement officials told Fox News the attack lasted 15 minutes and Alshamrani used a Glock 9mm that had five extended magazines. The gun, they added, was purchased legally in Florida.
Barr said during a Monday news conference that Alshamrani briefly disengaged during the gunfight to fire a round into one of his cell phones. Moreover, the attorney general said the killer had “significant ties to Al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula.” His contacts originated before his arrival in the United States, Barr confirmed.
Now that federal agents have unlocked the phones, they have a clear understanding of Alshamrani’s activity leading up to the December attack.