Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula claims December shooting at Florida naval base

Main gate at Naval Air Station Pensacola is seen on Navy Boulevard in Pensacola

CAIRO (Reuters) - An audio recording purporting to be from the Islamist militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility on Sunday for a fatal shooting in December at a U.S. naval base in Pensacola, Florida, but provided no evidence.

"We congratulate our Muslim nation and embrace the operation of the martyr hero, the daring knight Muhammad bin Saeed Al-Shamrani," said the audio, released by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch.

Three people were killed in the shooting.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the recording.

A U.S. government source familiar with official reporting and analysis, said the United States did not believe the claim by AQAP that the Florida Saudi shooter was acting for them or on their behalf.

The source said that AQAP could have put out the claim to counter reports in recent days about the killing of their leader in a drone strike.

Reports in Yemen have suggested in recent days that AQAP leader Qassim al-Raymi had been killed in a drone strike in Marib.

Reuters was not able to verify these reports.

One Yemeni government official told Reuters there had been a drone strike in Marib but it was not Raymi who had been killed.


(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Omar Fahmy; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Robert Birsel)