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U.S. suspends operational training of Saudi students at military bases

By Daniel Uria
U.S. suspends operational training of Saudi students at military bases
The United States suspended operational training of Saudi students at military locations and called for revisions to its vetting process for international military students on Tuesday. Photo by Patrick Nichols/EPA-EFE

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The United States suspended operational training of Saudi Arabian students at locations throughout the United States after a shooting at a Florida Naval base carried out by a Saudi Air Force officer.

The suspension will affect about 850 Saudi personnel presently in the United States for military training, who will be restricted to receiving classroom instruction.

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Earlier, the Navy had confirmed a "safety stand-down and operational pause" affecting about 300 Saudi Arabian aviation students at three bases in Florida including NAS Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field and NAS Mayport, before clarifying the suspension would apply to Saudis enrolled in all military training programs.

"The Department is working closely with the Saudi government in our response to this incident. Pending the completion of a security and safety stand-down led by the Military Departments, which is supported by the Saudi government, training of (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) military students at U.S. installations and facilities will be limited to the classroom," Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist wrote in a memo.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper also wrote a memo calling for immediate steps to strengthen the current vetting process for international military students to train on U.S. bases ordering a formal review be completed in 10 days.

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"These efforts will seek to more closely align IMS vetting procedures with those we apply to U.S. personnel," Esper wrote. "With respect to specific training programs and personnel under their cognizance, the Secretaries of the Military Departments may take additional security measures as they see fit."

The measures come in response to a shooting at NAS Pensacola on Friday in which three people were killed and eight were injured when gunman Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, a Saudi aviation trainee, opened fire in a classroom.

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