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Jordanians Question Chattanooga Shooter's Family in Mideast

  • Associated Press

FILE - This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County, Tennessee, sheriff's office shows a man identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

FILE - This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County, Tennessee, sheriff's office shows a man identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

Jordanian officials are questioning relatives of the shooter in last week's killing of five U.S. servicemen in Tennessee at a military recruiting office and a Navy-Marine operations center, a Jordanian official said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, authorities in Qatar say Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who killed four Marines and one sailor in the Chattanooga attack, transited through the Gulf nation on his way back from a 2014 visit to Jordan but never set foot outside the airport.

Jordanian authorities have been questioning relatives of Abdulazeez as part of an investigation into the time he spent in the kingdom last year, a government official said Tuesday. The official, who would not elaborate on the probe, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the case with journalists.

A person close to Abdulazeez's family has told the AP that he spent several months in Jordan last year under a mutual agreement with his parents to help him get away from drugs, alcohol and a group of friends whom his relatives considered a bad influence. The person spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern it would have business repercussions.

Jordan is one of the most Westernized countries in the Middle East, with alcohol sold openly. However, the kingdom has also seen the spread of Islamic militant ideas in recent years, especially following the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

The Jordanian government official declined comment when asked whether the investigation of Abdulazeez also include possible ties to any militants.

Media reports have suggested Abdulazeez also visited the small, energy-rich nation of Qatar on the 2014 trip. But Qatar's government insisted his time in the country was limited to its gleaming international airport.

"At no time did Mr. Abdulazeez enter the State of Qatar. Statements suggesting Mr. Abdulazeez entered the State of Qatar are false,'' Qatar's government media office said in a statement responding to questions from The Associated Press.

It said Abdulazeez changed planes at Doha's Hamad International Airport on his way from Amman, Jordan in November en route to the U.S.

Qatar has emerged as a major long-haul transit hub in the Middle East thanks to the rapid growth of government-backed Qatar Airways. Its new airport opened last year, a key piece of infrastructure ahead of its planned hosing of the 2022 World Cup.

The Qatari government condemned the shootings as "contrary to all humanitarian values, ethics, principles and religions,'' and expressed its condolences over the killings.

Qatar is an important U.S. ally in the Gulf that hosts a major U.S. air base, though it has come under scrutiny for its links to Islamist groups, including Hamas and the Taliban. It insists it does not support terrorism.

Abdulazeez, who was of Palestinian origin, was born in Kuwait and grew up in the United States, but has relatives in Jordan and the West Bank.

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