While investigators still put the pieces together from Thursday’s terrorist attack in Chattanooga, there’s a lot more we already know about the attacker, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
And yet, officials investigating the attack are apparently having problems identifying motive, and some observers still questioning whether this was even a terror attack.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 18, 2015
Is Chattanooga shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez a terrorist? Experts say its too early to tell. http://t.co/Cu6VHPzZhF
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) July 18, 2015
So in the spirit of cooperation, let me offer some direction to investigators based on what we already know from what’s been reported.
First comes the question of motive, which authorities appear to be baffled by.
An exclusive Reuters report gives us some fresh clues:
Exclusive: Tennessee suspect texted friend link to Koranic verse before attack http://t.co/cFIqfncDTg
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 18, 2015
Hours before the Tennessee shooting that killed five U.S. servicemen, the suspected gunman texted his close friend a link to a long Islamic verse that included the line: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”
His friend thought nothing of it at the time, but now wonders if it was a clue to Thursday’s rampage in Chattanooga, which has re-ignited concerns about the radicalization of young Muslim men.
Hmmm… that might be pertinent to motive. The article also adds this:
Abdulazeez’s friends said he had returned from a trip to Jordan in 2014 concerned about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of the United States and other countries to intervene.
He later purchased three assault rifles on an online marketplace and used them for target practice, the friends said.
“That trip was eye-opening for him. He learned a lot about the traditions and culture of the Middle East,” said the close friend who received the text message.
Abdulazeez was upset about the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza and the civil war in Syria, he said. “He felt Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia were not doing enough to help, and that they were heavily influenced by the United States.”
Another friend said, “He had always talked about it, but I’d say his level of understanding and awareness really rose after he came back.”
Among those who knew Abdulazeez, this trip was apparently of some note for a change in his behavior:
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) July 17, 2015
And then there’s the issue of exactly where he visited:
Chattanooga gunman ‘spent time in Jordan and Yemen’ http://t.co/1FqnbT9Uuf
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) July 17, 2015
The young American Muslim man who shot dead four US Marines in Chattanooga on Thursday visited Jordan and Yemen last year, Army Radio reported Friday.
According to the report, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez spent a month in Jordan in 2014, during which time he also visited Yemen.
Our own Bridget Johnson explores a possible angle to his trip to Yemen:
And the attack by Abdulazeez was a virtual copycat of the attack by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (aka Carlos Bledsoe) targeting a Little Rock recruiting center in 2009, which killed Army Pvt. Andy Long and wounded another soldier.
Where was Muhammad/Bledsoe radicalized? Yemen, where he spent 18 months before returning to the U.S. and conducting his attack.
AQAP-related? Similar case in 09 w/Carlos Bledsoe having returned from Yemen, attacking Lil Rock recruiting office https://t.co/naSwRfERxc
— Aaron Y. Zelin (@azelin) July 17, 2015
But it’s not just his pre-attack text message and travel that should be of interest to investigators. There seems to be more direct evidence of his ideological motivation:
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 16, 2015
The killer of four U.S. Marines in Chattanooga maintained a short-lived blog that hinted at his religious inner life. Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez’s blog had only two posts, both published July 13 and written in a popular style of Islamic religious reasoning.
What did those blog posts divulge?
— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) July 18, 2015
In the first, “A Prison Called Dunya,” Abdulazeez described everyday life as a prison and the Koran as a means of transcending it. In Arabic, “Dunya” refers to earthly concerns as opposed to spiritual ones.
“This life we are living is nothing more than a test of our faith and patience,” he wrote. “It was designed to separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire … Don’t let the society we live in deviate you from the task at hand.”
He added, “Brothers and sisters don’t be fooled by your desires, this life is short and bitter and the opportunity to submit to allah may pass you by.”
In his second posting, Abdulazeez discussed the Sahaba — companions of the prophet Muhammad — and how they served their faith by bringing it to the world, sometimes through warfare.
“Every one of them fought Jihad for the sake of Allah,” he wrote. “Every one of them had to make sacrifices in their lives. . . . After the prophets, they were the best human beings that ever lived.”
The complete blog posts by Abdulazeez can still be found online.
And the New York Times helpfully informs us that authorities are looking at his previous ties to “extremist groups”:
Investigators are examining the Chattanooga gunman’s past for ties to extremist groups http://t.co/yo5d1xVcnU
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 17, 2015
What extremist groups might Abdulazeez been involved with? The KKK? The Los Banditos motorcycle gang? The Tea Party? Southern gun culture?
Remarkably, it turns out they’re looking at his possible ties to Islamic extremist groups:
The crucial, unanswered question was whether Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, a naturalized American citizen who was born in Kuwait, came into contact with, or was inspired by, any Islamist extremist groups, intelligence officials said.
Thank heaven for authorities not letting that possibility slip by!
And it turns out there is some history of such extremist activity in the Abdulazeez family:
Law enforcement official: Abdulazeez's father once on a terror watch-list, under investigation by fed. authorities. pic.twitter.com/PA4zKIaSch
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 17, 2015
The Washington Post reports:
The FBI investigated the elder Abdulazeez twice, before and then just after the 9/11 attacks, for making financial contributions to a charity allegedly associated with a radical Palestinian terror group, U.S. officials said. He was put on the watch list after the second investigation, and later was removed. Numerous other Palestinian Americans were investigated and cleared for making similar contributions.
In the divorce documents, the father was quoted as saying that he intended to take a second wife, as permitted “under Islamic law” and “in the parties’ native State of Palestine.”
So there were two separate investigations, after which the father was put on the terror watch list (he was later removed).
His son, the shooter, also reportedly had previously run into some kind of trouble:
MORE: Tennessee gunman worked 10 days at Ohio nuclear plant before being let go for failing background check: http://t.co/hkPe4DS9Gb
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 17, 2015
The conditions for being granted “all access” clearance for a nuclear power plant are established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). There are several possible reasons why Abdulazeez was denied such clearance, such as negative information in his background check or not passing a drug exam. Undoubtedly, these are things investigators are looking at.
As I reported here at PJ Media on the day of the shooting, there were competing anonymous claims by federal authorities as to whether Abdulazeez was already on the radar of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies:
Pentagon Source: Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez was on the global intel watch-list and his accounts had been flagged for radical behavior.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 16, 2015
— knoxnews (@knoxnews) July 17, 2015
Just as it previously did in both the Fort Hood massacre and the Boston bombing, the FBI will undoubtedly investigate itself on this issue and clear itself of any error or wrongdoing.
Then comes the question of whether the Chattanooga killer acted alone. Some media seem quick to conclude that in fact he was a “lone wolf”:
Chattanooga is just the latest case of the lone wolf terroristhttp://t.co/CnnsalSpX2
— TIME (@TIME) July 18, 2015
Our own Roger L. Simon adds his colorful insight to this important question:
#LoneWolf is another bullsh&t liberal PC term to avoid confronting reality of Islamic terrorist ideology.
— Roger Simon (@rogerlsimon) July 18, 2015
While Abdulazeez may have made the decision to conduct the attack on his own, there is at least some evidence that this is not a case of self-radicalization.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 17, 2015
Abdulazeez had several friends at the gym, but one in particular, a former Chattanooga police officer, would constantly exhort militant Islamic views and threatened anyone who bad-mouthed the faith, Schrader said. The man was the one who introduced Abdulazeez to the Fight Factory and became the young fighter’s closest mentor, he said.
Then there is this breaking report:
Developing Story: Muhammad Abdulazeez reportedly spotted at gun range before deadly attack http://t.co/kwzCw66GYI
— News 12 Now (@wdefnews12) July 18, 2015
According to a tip that came into WDEF, Muhammad Abdulazeez was spotted at a gun range just weeks before killing four Marines and one Navy Petty Officer.
Abdulazeez was reportedly spotted with three other men who were wearing long beards like Abdulazeez. All four were reportedly practice shooting…
CBS News is also reporting that Abdulazeez told his co-workers that he and a group of guys recently went shooting at a gun range. CBS News got its information from law enforcement sources who interviewed Abdulazeez’s co-workers.
According to a published CBS News report, the men reportedly shot rifles, BB guns and pistols last month.
Weapons training and practice is an element being looked at in other current terrorism investigations.
We will certainly learn more in the days and weeks to come.
But with investigators and various media establishment outlets apparently perplexed as to the possible motive in this case — quite unlike the speed at which conclusions were determined in the recent Charleston shootings (whether there was evidence or not) — I’ve prepared this review of what we know so far as a public service to help give some direction as to where and what investigators might want to examine more thoroughly to better understand this tragic incident.