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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks before ringing the closing NASDAQ bell for Veterans Day in New York, New York, November 11, 2019. DoD/Lisa Ferdinando/Handout via REUTERS

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Saturday that he was not prepared at this point to label as “terrorism” the attack a day earlier at a U.S. Navy base in Florida, where a Saudi airman is accused of killing three people.

“No, I can’t say it’s terrorism at this time,” Esper told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, adding he believed investigators needed to be allowed to do their work.

A group that monitors online extremism says the suspect appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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