Wednesday 7 December 2016

US marines killer linked to Middle East visit

Rich McKay

Published 18/07/2015 | 02:30

Miller-Motte Technical College students and others join in prayer across the highway from the strip mall where a gunman attacked the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office on July 17
Miller-Motte Technical College students and others join in prayer across the highway from the strip mall where a gunman attacked the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office on July 17

US authorities believe the man who killed four marines in Tennessee on Thursday visited Jordan last year and possibly Yemen as well.

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Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez (24), whom the FBI identified as the shooter, died on Thursday after he killed the marines and wounded three other people in a rampage at two military facilities in Chattanooga.

Investigators believed Abdulazeez may have family in Jordan, making a visit to that country highly likely, one of the sources close to the probe said. He may have made several stops, and a visit to Yemen has not been ruled out.

A trip to Yemen, long viewed as a training ground for Islamic militants, would raise special concern.

Two brothers of Algerian extraction who led an attack on the Paris office of the satirical magazine 'Charlie Hebdo' in January had visited Yemen in 2011.

US investigators were probing the killer's travel history as part of efforts to determine whether he had any contact with militants or militant groups, but they had no firm evidence so far that he did, one source said.

Beyond direct contacts, law enforcement officials have said they are investigating whether Abdulazeez was inspired by Islamic State or similar militant groups. Islamic State had threatened to step up violence in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ended yesterday.

Islamic State claimed responsibility after a gunman killed 37 tourists in Tunisia in June, the same day as an attack in France and a suicide bombing in Kuwait.

Abdulazeez, who grew up in a Chattanooga suburb and studied engineering at university, is believed to have travelled to the Middle East, where his family has roots, between April and November 2014, according to one of the sources.

Gunfire

The killer, who was seen on Thursday driving an open-top Ford Mustang, sprayed gunfire at a joint military recruiting centre in a shopping centre, riddling the glass facade with bullet holes, then drove to a Naval Reserve Centre about 10km away, where he killed the marines before he was shot dead.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist groups, said Abdulazeez blogged on Monday that "life is short and bitter" and that Muslims should not miss an opportunity to "submit to Allah".

While there is no specific evidence about what might have prompted the killer to carry out the shooting, they believe that family or psychological issues may have contributed.

Irish Independent

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