A scary situation unfolded at Southern California's Camp Pendleton, one of the nation's largest military bases, over the weekend.
Marine Corps officials are downplaying the events, but what happened at the San Diego County complex had some speculating that possible terror suspects could have been casing the joint.
Three men of Middle Eastern descent tried to drive onto the base. One returned more than eight hours later and apparently tried it again. One of the vehicles involved had wires hanging from its steering-wheel airbag panel.
After the incident the base issued a be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) alert to local law enforcement that was inadvertently leaked to the public. Now base officials are downplaying the events:
“Basically the bottom line is that Camp Pendleton is not further investigating any of the events,” a base official told the Weekly today.
Asked if Camp Pendleton was on heightened alert, he said, “We don't discuss force protection measures.”
In fact, if it weren't for the BOLO's inadvertent release to the public, we might never have known about the incident.
Here's what happened about midnight Saturday at the Oceanside-adjacent base, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail:
Ahmad Rahmani Naeem, a 40-year-old Afghani, drove a rented Toyota to the main gate and, as his car was being searched, Vahik Petrossian, 41, and Sengekdi Norvik Avanosian, 27, tried to drive onto the base in separate cars. Those two are from Iran.
Instead of waiting, as told, those two drove onto the base and a short pursuit ensued.
After the three were checked out they were released, but, strangely, Naeem showed up again at 8:30 the next morning, saying he was lost.
According to the Mail, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined the men were not on any terrorist watch lists, and they didn't have criminal backgrounds or immigration issues.
Still, Fox 11 News this morning speculated that it was possible that this could have been an alleged terrorist dry run to test out security at the base.
What makes the incident all the more chilling is that Saturday afternoon a parking lot attendant in Oceanside reported overhearing three men — count 'em three — discussing a possible terror plot.
A terror expert told San Diego's 10 News:
They could have been probing the security, not just cameras, sensors, individual security from MPs… (and) could have wanted to know what background checks would have produced.
Retired U.S. Lt. Col. Thomas Richards told the station, “It could have been an intelligence reconnaissance mission for them … “
For whatever reason, military officials are downplaying the situation. Base officials sent this statement to the Weekly:
After a thorough investigation concerning a recent unusual incident at Camp Pendleton's main gate, it was promptly determined that the events that occurred were unrelated and posed no threat to MCB Camp Pendleton.
Base officials have concluded their investigation and are no longer looking into this matter.
Base officials stated that security is always tight there, including …
… perimeter security, access control at each of the seven entry gates, perimeter patrols, interior patrols, traffic enforcement, physical security, crime prevention, military working dogs, investigations, and community relations.
Now, sure, it would be almost suicidal to target one of Southern California's most-armed complexes. But keep in mind that terrorists have aimed at the military many times and, in fact, hold the armed forces' presence in the Middle East as one of their biggest problems with the United States.