Marine killer visited Jordan in 2014

Officials investigate whether gunman was in touch with extremist groups

Mohammod Abdulazeez

Chattanooga (Tennessee), July 17: The 24-year-old gunman who killed four Marines in an attack on two military sites here travelled to Jordan last year for about seven months, a senior intelligence official said today.

The official said that investigators were combing through the computer, cellphone and social media contacts of the gunman, identified as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, to determine whether he was in touch with any extremist groups in Jordan before or during this trip.

It was still too early, the official said, to conclude whether Abdulazeez, who was born in Kuwait, had been inspired or directed by Islamic extremists or any other terrorist organisation.

"This attack raises several questions about whether he was directed by someone or whether there's enough propaganda out there to motivate him to do this," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still underway. FBI officials said late last night that thus far they did not have "anything that directly ties" the suspect to international terrorist organisations.

Intelligence officials were contacting authorities in Kuwait and Jordan, a US official said, for any information about Abdulazeez, including whether his name had come up in any of their investigations.

Abdulazeez became an American citizen in 2003 through the naturalisation of his mother, a federal official said. Because he was a minor at the time, he did not have to apply separately for citizenship.

Today, one of the four Marines killed in the attack was identified as Thomas Sullivan, a gunnery sergeant and Iraq war veteran, according to an announcement posted on Facebook by his alma mater, Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The announcement said Sullivan was the recipient of a Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the US armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action.

The defence department said it would release the names of the other victims later. The wounded included a Marine Corps recruiter and a police officer, according to law enforcement officials.

Although counterterrorism officials had not been investigating Abdulazeez before yesterday's shooting, federal officials familiar with the inquiry said that his father had been investigated years ago for giving money to an organisation with possible ties to terrorists.

The defence department said today that the general security level had not been raised at military installations around the country in the wake of the shooting, but that individual station commanders might take added precautions.

In May, the military command raised the terrorism precaution level at its domestic installations to "threat condition alpha", the lowest of four steps above normal, because of the general possibility of attacks inspired by the group calling itself the Islamic State, and it has remained there.

After the Chattanooga shootings, the police in New York City ratcheted up security at military installations around the city.

Officers with special weapons and training were deployed to those and other sensitive locations, said John J. Miller, the police department's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.

"While we have no specific information about any plot against the city, until we learn more about the attack we have placed additional officers in key locations," Miller said.

"We have been in regular contact with Tennessee authorities, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the intelligence community."

About a dozen uniformed police officers stood outside the famed armed services recruitment centre in the middle of Times Square today, several of them carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing helmets, and some with police dogs on leashes.

New york times news service


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