FBI Finds Florida Gunman Who Killed U.S. Sailors Was Linked to Al Qaeda After Breaking iPhone Encryption

pensacola shooting
Military personnel carry a transfer case for fallen service member, U.S. Navy Ensign Joshua Watson, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base on December 8, 2019, in Dover, Delaware. Three U.S. Navy sailors were killed when a gunman opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, according to U.S. Navy officials. Mark Makela/Getty Images/Getty

The F.B.I. announced Monday that it had established a connection between the Pensacola, Florida shooter that killed three sailors and wounded eight people at a U.S. military base and al Qaeda, after breaking the encryption on the shooter's iPhone.

The news was first reported by the Associated Press on Monday.

During a press conference, the F.B.I. said that Mohammed Said Alshamrani, who was killed by law enforcement after the December shooting, communicated with al Qaeda operatives who encouraged the attacks.

Attorney General William Barr said the F.B.I. discovered the terrorism link after breaking into the shooter's iPhone without Apple's help, making a point that U.S. officials asked Apple for assistance, along with President Donald Trump, to no avail.

Barr said the phone, which Alshamrani tried to destroy during the shooting, revealed his "significant" ties to al Qaeda from the years and months before the attack and the phone yielded additional intelligence, which led to a counterterrorism response against one of Alshamrani's associates in Yemen.

F.B.I. director Christopher Wray said the attack was a "brutal culmination" of years of planning by Alshamrani, who was radicalized as far back as 2015, and associated with al Qaeda while living in Texas and Florida. Wray said the shooter was "meticulous" in his planning, making pocket cam surveillance videos and a final will saved in his phone, which al Qaeda later released.

"We at the FBI never forget that three brave members of our armed forces were killed in this attack," Wray said. "They were Airman Mohammed Same Haitham, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, and Airman Cameron Scott Walters. They were serving our country. They died as heroes.

FBI Finds Florida Gunman Who Killed U.S. Sailors Was Linked to Al Qaeda After Breaking iPhone Encryption | U.S.