Saudi Arabia sought to distance itself Saturday from a student who carried out a fatal shooting at an American naval base, as it seeks to repair its image of being an exporter of extremism.
The Saudi military student reportedly condemned the US as a “nation of evil” before going on a rampage Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, killing three people and wounding eight.
The hashtag “Saudis stand with America” gained traction on social media after King Salman telephoned President Donald Trump to denounce the shooting as “heinous” and pledge cooperation with American officials to investigate the incident.
The king added in the phone call Friday that the shooter, who was gunned down by police, “does not represent the Saudi people,” a sentiment echoed by other officials.
“Like many other Saudi military personnel, I was trained in a US military base, and we used that valuable training to fight side by side with our American allies against terrorism and other threats,” Prince Khalid bin Salman, the king’s younger son and the deputy defense minister, said on Twitter.
“A large number of Saudi graduates of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola moved on to serve with their US counterparts in battlefronts around the world, helping to safeguard the regional and global security. (The) tragic event is strongly condemned by everyone in Saudi Arabia.”
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, also expressed his “deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences” over the shooting.