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US sends home nearly two dozen Saudi cadets after shooting

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Washington, Jan 14 (Net) — The U.S. sent home 21 Saudi military students following an investigation into a deadly shooting last month by one of their fellow trainees at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, an attack that Attorney General William Barr said was an act of terrorism driven by some of the same motivations of the Sept. 11 plot.
The trainees who were removed had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had "contact with child pornography," including in internet chat rooms, officials said. None is accused of having had advance knowledge of the shooting or helped the 21-year-old gunman carry it out.
The Justice Department reviewed whether any of the trainees should face charges, but concluded that the con-duct did not meet the standards for federal prosecution, Barr said.
The Dec. 6 shooting at the base in Pensacola in which Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in American military training programs and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets. Monday's resolution singled out misconduct by individual students but also allows for continued training of pilots from Saudi Ara-bia, an important ally in the Middle East.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave complete and total support for our counter-terrorism investigation, and ordered all Saudi trainees to fully cooperate," Barr said. "This assistance was critical to helping the FBI deter-mine whether anyone assisted the shooter in the attack."
Barr said the kingdom has agreed to review the conduct of all 21 to see if they should face military discipline and to send back anyone the U.S. later determines should face charges.
Separately, the attorney general on Monday asked Apple to help extract data from two iPhones that belonged to the gunman, including one that authorities say Alshamrani damaged with a bullet after being confronted by law enforcement.
Law enforcement officials left no doubt that Alshamrani was motivated by jihadist ideology, saying he visited a New York City memorial to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and post-ed anti-American and anti-Israeli messages on social media just two hours before the shooting. Last Sept. 11, Barr said, Alshamrani posted a message that said "the countdown has started."
Officials had earlier said that Alshamrani hosted a party before the shooting, where he and others watched vid-eos of mass shootings. Alshamrani, who also traveled back and forth between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., was undergoing flight training at Pensacola, where foreign military members routinely receive instruction.
On the morning of Dec. 6, the gunman walked into a building on the grounds of the Navy base and shot his victims "in cold blood" as Marines who heard the gunfire from outside yanked a fire extinguisher off the wall and rushed to confront him. He was ultimately killed by a sheriff's deputy during the rampage.
The gunman shot at a photo of President Donald Trump and another former U.S. president and witnesses re-ported he was making statements "critical of American military actions overseas" during the attack, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said.
FBI officials have sought help from other federal agencies and other experts, and investigators have been trying to guess the passwords, but those efforts have been unsuccessful, according to the letter.
Apple said in a statement Monday that it rejected any characterization it had not provided substantive assistance in the investigation. It said it has "produced a wide variety of information" as part of the probe, including iCloud backups, account information and other data about transactions.
While Apple and the FBI have been in discussions over the last week, Apple has not yet told the Justice De-partment whether the company has the capability of accessing the phones, another senior Justice Department official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Apple said it only learned last week that the gunman had a second iPhone and that the FBI had been unable to access the devices. The company said its engineers had a call with the FBI to "provide additional technical as-sistance" and it would continue to cooperate with investigators.