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Chattanooga killer Abdulazeez: All-American kid gone radical?

Just days before he killed four YS marines in dual attacks on a military recruiting center in Chattanooga and another recruiting facility seven miles away, he started blogging about his views on his religion, Islam. His first post was titled, “A Prison Called Dunya” — basically life as a prison.

world Updated: Jul 17, 2015 20:48 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Chattanooga killer Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez,military recruiting center in Chattanooga,Tennessee
Corey Groce sits during a prayer vigil at Redemption Point Church for the victims of the shootings at a recruiting center and another US military site a few miles apart in Chattanooga. 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked the two centers killing four US marines. (AP Photo)

Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez wrestled in school, studied electrical engineering in college and practiced mixed martial arts. And, said in a recent blog life was a “prison”.

Authorities are now combing his home, his computer, social media accounts and posts and talking to friends and relatives for clues to why he killed four US marines on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Abdulazeez drove up to a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee and opened fire, shooting up its windows and glass door at the entrance.

He then sped away to another military recruiting facility seven miles away and started shooting, killing four US marines this time. He was shot dead by police officers in pursuit.

Security at military facilities and federal buildings has been since beefed up, the department of homeland security said, “out of an abundance of caution”.

Authorities are investigating the shooting as a case of terrorism, but have not yet said if and how he was involved with any group, or inspired — as have been some lone-wolf attackers.

Abdulazeez was not on the FBI’s terror watch list. His father was, some years ago, but he had been taken off it since. Authorities had nothing more on the son and the father.

Abdulazeez’s only run-in with the law was an arrest last April for driving under the influence of alcohol. He had probably also used drugs. He was released on a bond of $2,000.

Neighbours, former schoolmates and coaches described Aubulazeez as a regular “all-American kid” who wrestled in school and practiced mixed martial arts. He would break practice to pray, his coaches have said, but showed no signs of radicalisation. His friends found him incapable of violence, and neighbours trusted him.

Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait to Jordanian parents. The family came to the US when he was still very young, and stayed on becoming naturalised American citizens.

Just days before the attacks he started blogging about his views on his religion, Islam. His first post was titled, “A Prison Called Dunya” — basically life as a prison.

In his second post, “Understanding Islam: The story of the three blind men”, he sought openness in understanding and interpreting the religion, not the usual jihadi rhetoric.

First Published: Jul 17, 2015 20:34 IST