Chattanooga shooting rampage death toll rises
July 18 2015 11:25 PM

Ashley Montgomery, whose husband is a Navy sailor, pays her respects at a memorial set up in front of the Armed Forces Career Centre/National Guard Recruitment Office, which had been shot up on Thursday.


AFP/Reuters/Chattanooga, Tennessee
The death toll in the mass shooting of US military personnel in Tennessee rose to five yesterday as investigators pursued the motive behind the rampage.
In a brief statement, the US Navy said a petty officer succumbed overnight to wounds he sustained in Thursday’s attack on two military centres in Chattanooga.
The Navy did not identify the sailor, but relatives named him as Petty Officer Randall Smith, a father of three daughters who had recently re-enlisted and transferred to Chattanooga.
“It’s hard to understand how somebody can hurt somebody that’s serving for you, for your freedom, for your safety,” his step-grandmother Darlene Proxmire told WANE television in Indiana.
“He was an awesome young man,” she added. “He loved his wife and children. He loved the Navy.”
Four Marines also died in the attack – which authorities are treating as “an act of terrorism” – before the gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, a naturalised US citizen born in Kuwait, died in a shootout with police.
The FBI has asked foreign intelligence agencies to help trace Abdulazeez’s movements and activities abroad, and analysts will be tracing his activity on social media, officials said.
But it warned against jumping to conclusions, after Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, branded the attack “an ISIS-inspired attack”, referring to the Islamic State group.
“At this time, we have no indication that he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself,” FBI special agent Ed Reinhold said, referring to Abdulazeez. “We obviously want to know what his thoughts were and who else he was associating with.”
President Barack Obama has said that radicalised individuals acting on their own pose a greater risk to the country than a large-scale operation.
The shooting has jarred Chattanooga, a city of 168,000, where the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga condemned the attack and cancelled its Eid al-Fitr celebration out of respect for the victims.
Going into the weekend, more details about Abdulazeez – a University of Tennessee engineering graduate and mixed martial arts enthusiast who grew up in a middle-class neighbourhood – slowly emerged.
Investigators were looking at Abdulazeez’s foreign travel, with a reported trip to Jordan last year of particular interest.
Yesterday a close friend of Abdulazeez revealed that he was angry about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of regional governments and the United States to intervene.
Hours before the attack, the suspect sent a text message to the friend, seen by Reuters, which links to a Qur’anic verse that includes the text: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”
There was also evidence that he came from a troubled family.
Divorce papers filed by his mother alleged that his father beat his wife and five children.
The father was also reportedly investigated for ties to a terrorist group, but ultimately was cleared.
Abdulazeez’s only known brush with the law was in April, when he was arrested for driving under the influence.
He briefly worked at a nuclear power plant in Ohio in May 2013, but was fired after failing to meet minimum employment requirements, a spokeswoman for Perry Nuclear Power Plant operator FirstEnergy said.
In Washington, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has asked for recommendations on how to “ensure the safety of service members and civilians at military installations”, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
But state governors in Louisiana and Oklahoma opted to immediately sign orders that would allow US military personnel to carry firearms at recruiting centres, which often are situated in civilian shopping malls.
Abdulazeez sprayed gunfire at a joint military recruiting centre in a strip mall, then drove to a Naval Reserve Centre 10km away, where he killed the Marines before he was shot dead.
Three other people were injured, including the sailor who died yesterday.
The Marine Corps identified the four Marines as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina, Sergeant Carson Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin and reservist Lance Corporal Squire Wells of Cobb, Georgia.

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