(CNN) – The Saudi military trainee who killed three US sailors and wounded several others in a terror attack last year on a military base in Pensacola, Florida, was a longtime associate of al Qaeda who had communicated with operatives from the group as recently as the night before the shooting, the Justice Department and the FBI announced Monday.

US investigators uncovered the al Qaeda connection after the FBI broke through the encryption protecting the Saudi attacker’s iPhones and have been able to use the information on the devices to carry out a recent counterterrorism operation in Yemen, Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference.

“The evidence we’ve been able to develop from the killer’s devices shows that the Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP associate,” Wray said, referring to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the deadliest branches of the terror group. READ MORE

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