CHATTANOOGA, TN – We know more about 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, the man who killed four marines in attacks on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday.
He was a naturalized US citizen, born in Kuwait, with a Jordanian citizenship. He apparently traveled recently to the Middle East, but he was not in any US databases of suspected terrorists.
His father is from the Palestinian Territories. The FBI investigated him several years ago for possible terror ties, but closed their investigation and removed him from watch lists.
In 2012, Abdulazeez received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga where people lined up to attend a vigil for the victims of Thursday’s shooting.
The mosque where Abdulazeez attended Friday prayers cancelled celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. The mosque urged all Chatanooga Muslims to attend a non-religious gatherings at a Baptist church to express unity, empathy, and compassion.
Those who knew Abdulazeez, like his former mixed martial arts coach Scott Schraeder, say they never imagined he would be behind such a violent act. "When i heard it, literally there were tears in my eyes. He was one of the nicest kids we trained there.”
Abdulazeez shot up a military recruitment office, then a Navy operational support center seven miles away where he rammed a gate and died in a gunfight with police.
Family members of the marines went on social media to mourn their loss. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan survived two tours of duty in Iraq and received a purple heart. Skip Wells was a Georgia native who graduated from high school three years ago.
Abdulazeez may have started a blog a few days before the attacks. His posts may hint at his view of Islam. In this post, “A Prison Called Dunya”, he writes about a prisoner who has to take a test to determine if he will leave his earthly prison, the Dunya, or go to a more restrictive place. Abdulazeez writes that such a prisoner would be patient and study to pass the test that is, in his words,“designed to separate the inhabitants of paradise from the inhabitants of hellfire.”
His high school yearbook contains his senior quote: “My name causes national security alerts,” he wrote. “What does yours do?”
After this week, his name also causes unbearable sorrow and pain.