Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December that killed three people and wounded eight others.
On Sunday, an audio recording purporting to be from the terrorist group’s leader, Qassim al-Rimi, claimed responsibility for the Dec. 6 attack, the New York Times reported.
“We congratulate our Muslim nation and embrace the operation of the martyr hero, the daring knight Muhammad bin Saeed Al-Shamrani,” the audio said, according to Reuters.
The group did not offer direct evidence proving the reported killer — Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force — was connected to AQAP. However, the group did produce communications between Alshamrani and their organization, as well as Alshamrani’s will.
The Justice Department confirmed last month that the Pensacola attack was “an act of terror.”
Attorney General William Barr said:
This was an act of terrorism.
The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology. During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on social media on Sept. 11 of last year that said: “the countdown has begun.” Over Thanksgiving weekend, he visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, and did so two hours before his attack at the naval base.
However, the FBI said it did not believe Alshamrani was connected to a single group. A government source told Reuters that officials did not believe AQAP’s claim.
Still, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, told the Times that AQAP’s claim of responsibility is significant because it shows “that AQAP has infiltrated the Saudi military, which is an embarrassment for the Saudis.”
AQAP’s claim of responsibility coincided with reports that al-Rimi was the target of a successful drone strike last month.
According to the Times, the government is still working to confirm that the airstrike killed its target.