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4 US marines, gunman killed in attack at military sites in Tennessee

Four US Marines and a gunman were killed in shootings at two military recruiting centres in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday. One police officer and another Marine were injured, US officials told local media.

world Updated: Jul 17, 2015 08:15 IST
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Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Paul Clendenen guards the top of the CB Robinson Bridge at Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Centre. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Paul Clendenen guards the top of the CB Robinson Bridge at Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Centre. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

Four US marines and a gunman were shot dead at two military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday, in an attack investigated by officials as "domestic terrorism."

"We can confirm that four DoD (defense department) service members were tragically killed and one wounded in two separate shootings in Chattanooga," the Pentagon said in a statement.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the gunman has been identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Abdulazeez is believed to have been born in Kuwait and held a Jordanian passport which he used to enter the US.

US attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an "act of domestic terrorism", though FBI special agent in charge Ed Reinhold said authorities were still investigating a motive.

Witnesses and local media reports said the gunman, driving an open-top Ford Mustang, fired at two locations -- a Naval Operation Support Centre and an Armed Forces Recruiting Centre that houses army and marine recruiting office.

Most of the the fatalities and injuries are reported to have taken place at the Naval Operation Support Centre. The facilities are 15 miles apart.

“We're going to do an intense look at him to see what his connections are,” FBI agent Reinhold told reporters.

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Store employees look out of their door next to the Reserve Recruitment Centre as the area is cordoned off after a shooting incident. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

"Lives have been lost from some faithful people who have been serving our country, and I think I join all Tennesseans in being both sickened and saddened by this," governor Bill Haslam said.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, an army recruiter in Chattanooga, said he was at his office when someone opened fire and he heard 30 to 50 shots.

A facility 11 kilometers away was also attacked. Brian Lepley, a spokesperson with the US Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, said his recruiters there were told by law enforcement that the shooter, who was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off.

The army recruiters at the facility told Lepley they were not hurt and had evacuated; Lepley said he had no information about recruiters for the other military branches at the facility.

President Barack Obama has been briefed by his national security team on the shooting involving two military sites in Tennessee.

In statement on the shooting, President Barack Obama said his administration was in contact with "the defense department to make sure defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant”.

The department of homeland security said it was “enhancing the security posture at certain federal (government) facilities, out of an abundance of caution”.

The city along the Tennessee River lies just north of the Georgia border and has a population of over 173,000 people.