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Tennessee Shooter's 'War' Message Probed

  • Ken Bredemeier

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.

U.S. authorities on Sunday are investigating a gunman's text message declaring "war" that he sent just hours before he gunned down five American servicemen at a military support center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, sent the text to a friend and could hint at his motivation for Thursday's attack. It included a link to an Islamic verse, "Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of mine, then I have declared war against him."

The friend told the Reuters news agency that he didn't think anything of the text at the time, but now wonders if "it may have been his way of telling me something."

One key U.S. lawmaker, Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, has described the assault as "an ISIS-inspired attack," referring to Islamic State insurgents who have taken over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. But the Federal Burau of Investigation said Abdulazeez appeard to have been self-radicalized.

"At this time, we have no indication that he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself," said the FBI.

The criminal investigative agency has asked foreign intelligence services to help trace movements and activities abroad by Abdulazeez, including a trip he took to Jordan in 2014. Friends said that when he returned from the trip, he voiced concern about the conflicts in the Mideast and the reluctance of the United States and other countries to intervene.

According to intelligence sources cited in U.S. media, Abdulazeez spent seven months in Jordan last year, his fifth visit to the country.

Parents' reaction

Late Saturday, the family of the 24-year-old Abdulazeez, a Kuwait-born naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed their remorse for his attack.

"There are no words expressing our shock, horror and grief," the statement read. "The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved. For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence."

Governors in at least six U.S. states have authorized the arming of personnel at National Guard facilities following the Thursday attacks.

The governors of Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas issued the orders as security at recruiting centers comes under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the shootings.

Florida Governor Rick Scott also relocated National Guard recruiters from storefront locations to armories in his state.

Stronger security mesures

On Friday, General Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, said the Army was reviewing security at recruiting centers. Such facilities, often storefronts in small shopping centers, are like the one in Chattanooga that Abdulazeez first fired on before driving to the military support center where he opened fire again, killing the five military personnel before being shot dead by police.

On Saturday, the sailor, who was wounded at the military support center, died, pushing the death toll in the attack to five.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26, a logistics specialist, was married and had three young daughters.

The four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting rampage were medal winners and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said Friday.

Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts, was deployed twice during the Iraq War and had received two Purple Hearts.

Staff Sergeant David A. Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and currently lived in Hixon, Tennessee, outside Chattanooga. Hixon was also the home of Abdulazeez.

Sergeant Carson A. Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin, had been deployed to Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Squire K. "Skip'' Wells of Cobb County, Georgia, was the youngest victim at 21 and had been a Marine for only a little more than a year.

Abdulazeez's neighbors say he was friendly. Just days before the shootings, Abdulazeez was seen dribbling a soccer ball in his yard, and he told two longtime friends he was excited and upbeat about his new job at a company that designs and makes wire and cable products.

The SITE Intelligence group reported that Abdulazeez wrote a blog, and on Monday he said that "life is short and bitter." He added, according to SITE, that Muslims should not miss "the opportunity to submit to Allah."

Some information for this report came from AP and AFP.