|Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez|
Friday, 17 July 2015
Chattanooga Shooting: Four US Marines And Gunman Killed in 'Act of Terrorism' in Tennessee
Four US marines were killed on Thursday in attacks on two facilities in Tennessee. The gunman, who was also killed, was identified as 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
An FBI statement said: “The FBI’s Knoxville Field Office, along with the Chattanooga Police Department and other law enforcement partners, are working jointly to investigate today’s shootings at a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which four individuals were killed and three injured.
“The shooter, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, is also deceased.”
An unnamed official told the Associated Press Abdulazeez was from Hixton, Tennessee, a few miles from Chattanooga. The official said he was believed to have been born in Kuwait. It was unclear whether he was a US or Kuwaiti citizen.
Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke said a Chattanooga police officer was among the injured. The officer, who was identified as Sgt Dennis Pedigo, is in stable condition. Authorities did not indicate whether the gunman was killed by law enforcement, or by a self-inflicted wound.
Speaking from the Oval Office later on Thursday afternoon, President Obama said: “It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion.”
Obama said the families of the victims had “our full support as they try to overcome the grief that’s involved here.”
Ray Mabus, secretary of the navy, expressed his condolences for the families of the dead marines and said: “While we expect our sailors and marines to go into harm’s way, and they do so without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and unfathomable.”
Official sources did not agree on whether the attack was being treated as an act of domestic or international terrorism. US attorney Bill Killian told reporters officials were treating the attacks as an act of “domestic terrorism” but the FBI said it and its partners were still investigating a motive.
The FBI statement said: “While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available.”
Berke described the attack as “incomprehensible” and “a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga”.
Tennessee senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, released a statement which said: “I am heartbroken by the tragic shootings that have taken place today in my hometown.
“We have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and continue to monitor developments and have offered our assistance. This is a difficult day for Tennesseans and our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by this tragedy.”
The shooting began around 10.45am at the Armed Forces Career Center on Lee Highway in Chattanooga. Gina Mule, a witness at the Lee Highway location, told CNN she saw a white male in a silver convertible Ford Mustang with a gun.
“He had a big, big high-powered rifle. He was opening fire on the air force, marines and navy offices,” she said.
Mule said she saw the man reload his rifle and then drive away.
The shooter stopped in front of the recruiting facility, shot at the building and drove off, said Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the US army recruiting command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Images of a door to the center in a strip mall showed more than a dozen bullet holes in the glass.
The army recruiters at the facility told Lepley they were not hurt and had been evacuated; Lepley said he had no information about recruiters for the other branches at the facility.
An active duty army recruiter said he was at his office when someone opened fire and he heard 30 to 50 shots.
“We heard one single shot, which kind of sparked our attention. Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting, so we then initiated our active shooter drill: getting down low to the ground, moving to a safe location. And we waited until everything seemed to be clear.”
The army recruiter said he did not see the gunman or a vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, there were reports of a shooting at a naval reserve center, believed to be the navy operational support center and marine corps reserve center, about six miles away on Amnicola Highway. All of the victims were killed at that location, said an FBI agent, Ed Reinhold.
Victims were taken to Erlanger hospital, which had been placed on lockdown. A shopping mall, two nearby colleges and the Tennessee governor’s mansion were also placed on lockdown in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
A temporary flight restriction was placed over Chattanooga while police searched for the suspect and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly activated its Chattanooga Strike Team. The investigation was being led by the FBI, in conjunction with the ATF, DHS, Tennessee department of homeland security, and the Chattanooga police department.
The defense secretary, Ash Carter, said in a statement: “My thoughts and prayers – along with those of the men and women of the US Department of Defense – are with the families of those killed in this senseless act of violence and with all those touched by this tragedy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report