The Pentagon on Tuesday suspended more than 850 Saudi students from flight training in response to the deadly shooting by a Saudi student last Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, senior defense officials told Fox News.
The suspension was part of a broader Defense Department review of all international training on U.S. military bases after Friday’s massacre.
The officials said all 852 Saudi military students will be immediately confined to classroom training, while all operational training in the air, land, and sea “will pause.”
Navy Commander Clay Doss said classroom and flight training will resume for other students this week. He did not say how long the flight stand-down for Saudi students will continue.
Officials told Fox News the Saudi government has agreed to the Pentagon’s decision.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has directed the under secretary of defense for intelligence to “take immediate steps to strengthen personal vetting” for international military students.
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old aviation student from Saudi Arabia, opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola Friday, killing three military members and injuring eight others. Police shot and killed the Saudi gunman.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday said the investigation was proceeding under “the presumption that this was an act of terrorism.” He urged stronger security “precautions” for foreign nationals training on U.S. military bases.
“To have this individual be able to take out three of our sailors, to me that’s unacceptable,” DeSantis said.
Lt. Comdr. Megan Isaac, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Fox News that training was suspended over the weekend for all personnel.
The flight restriction put in place this week would affect students at Pensacola Naval Air Station, where the shooting occurred, and at nearby Whiting Field. Additional Saudi students at Naval Air Station Mayport, on the Atlantic seaboard, also face restrictions.
Doss said the stand-down was an effort to ensure the safety of the students as they recovered from the trauma of the shooting.
Some 5,000 international military trainees are located inside the United States. In addition Saudi Arabia, the trainees are from all 29 NATO nations as well as other allies and partners.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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