Four Marines Killed in Tennessee; Obama Vows Full Probe

Updated on
Chattanooga shooting
Police officers enter the Armed Forces Career Center after a gunman opened fire in Tennessee, on July 16, 2015. Photographer: John Bazemore/AP Photo.

President Barack Obama promised a full investigation into shootings at military sites in Tennessee that killed four Marines, described as a potential act of terrorism by U.S. officials.

“We take all shootings very seriously, but obviously when we have an attack on a U.S. military facility, we have to make sure we have all the information necessary to make an assessment of how this attack took place,” Obama said in the Oval Office after being briefed on the shootings by FBI Director James Comey.

The shootings, under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement, took place just miles and about 30 minutes apart at a U.S. Navy Network Operations Support Center and an armed forces recruiting center in Chattanooga. Names of those slain were not released.

The shootings escalated concern over domestic extremism. Lone attackers inspired by international terrorist groups are a priority across the U.S. and other Western countries.

“We know that what appears to be a lone gunman carried out these attacks,” Obama said. “My main message right now is obviously my deepest sympathies to the American people, to the four Marines that have been killed.”

The gunman, who was also killed, was Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, according to an FBI statement. He lived in Hixson, Tennessee, which is about seven miles northeast of Chattanooga, a U.S. official said.

Terrorism Concerns

Authorities said the first shooting occurred before 11 a.m. at a military recruiting center in a strip mall. No one was wounded in that attack. The gunman next drove in his Ford Mustang to the support center, where he opened fire, killing four Marines and wounding a fifth.

Obama said local law enforcement personnel who were wounded in the attacks are expected to survive.

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, joined Obama in the Oval Office.

Obama didn’t label the attacks terrorism. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian told reporters that the shooting is being investigated as a possible act of domestic terrorism. The FBI is leading a national security investigation, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson raised security at some federal facilities as a cautionary measure after the shootings.

U.S. officials have expressed increasing concern that Islamic State and other terror groups are inspiring home-grown extremists to launch attacks. They are difficult to stop because the extremists aren’t directed by the terror groups, U.S. officials say.

Top FBI officials said it was too early to be sure the Chattanooga shootings fit that mold. It will take days for agents to comb through Abdulazeez’s home, computers and phones for clues. He had not been on the FBI’s radar, a U.S. official said.

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