Prior to opening fire on two military offices yesterday, Mohammed Youssef Abdulazeez had not risen to the notice of federal counter-terrorism officials, NBC News reported earlier on the Today show. The report mentions that Abdulazeez’ father had “briefly appeared” on the terror watch list, although the broadcast did not elaborate any further. NBC notes SITE, a private intel/security analysis group, has discovered recent blog posts in which Abdulazeez appeared to be preparing in some way for radical action of some sort:
The gunman who opened fire on two military centers in Chattanooga Thursday, killing four Marines and critically wounding a Navy sailor, was not in any federal terrorism database and was not under investigation before he carried out the rampage, several officials told NBC News.
Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, was killed after spraying dozens of bullets at a military recruiting center then driving to a Navy-Marine training center seven miles away where he got out of his car and shot the Marines. A police officer was also wounded and was being treated in the hospital, officials said. …
Abdulazeez was born in 1990 in Kuwait, and he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He lived with his parents, and his father is a Chattanooga city employee.
Abdulazeez was not under FBI surveillance and was not on any watch list, officials said. However, his father, who is from the Palestinian territories, was briefly investigated several years ago for possible connections to a terror organization. But that investigation was closed, and the father was removed from government watch lists, the officials said.
The blog postings are somewhat cryptic but disturbing enough for the FBI to work on authenticating them:
A motive in the attack is unclear, but the FBI is investigating a disturbing blog that may yield clues. The SITE Intelligence Group said Abdulazeez posted three days before the shooting that “life is short and bitter” and the Muslims should not let “the opportunity to submit to Allah … pass you by.” The blog has not been confirmed by NBC News.
The tenor of them, if they can be authenticated, should be enough for most to get past the workplace-violence explanation and into the realm of jihad. There are only two posts on the blog itself, both of them posted on Monday of this week. It appears to be the penultimate act in a life unraveled over a short period of time:
Chattanooga gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez went from being arrested for DUI with ‘white residue’ around his face to blogging about submitting to Allah in the months before he launched his deadly gun attack, it has been revealed.
The Jordanian citizen, who grew up in the Middle East, has been described by classmates and former school coaches as an ‘All American’ student who came from a well-to-do family – but his behavior seemed to become more erratic after a reported trip back to the region in the last two years.
CNN had more on his pilgrimage back to Kuwait:
Abdulazeez also once trained as a fighter under coach Almir Dizdarevic. They also knew each other from mosques they attended, even after the training relationship ended. They would bump into each other and chat, or Dizdarevic would chat with his family.
He had heard that his former athlete moved out of the country to the Middle East a year or so ago.
“He went back home and he stayed overseas,” Dizdarevic said. “And I asked his dad about, you know, where’s Mohammad? I haven’t seen him in a while and he said ‘he moved back home.'”
The two saw each other occasionally when Abdulazeez visited. “I asked him ‘how is everything, what you doing?’ He said he is teaching kids, he is teaching wrestling,” Dizdarevic said.
Then Abdulazeez moved back to Tennessee.
Dizdarevic told CNN that he believes Abdulazeez had to have been radicalized outside of Chattanooga, but that still remains to be determined. Everyone interviewed by the media seems stunned to realize that the young man they knew had been radicalized at all — which should make everyone wonder just how well we can spot these cases in the future before they erupt.