Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez

Kuwaiti-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was an American citizen who in July 2015 carried out attacks on two U.S. military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing five U.S. military personnel. He is believed to have been inspired in part by the teachings of the late al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  Abdulazeez had not been on any terror watch list.Catherine E. Shoichet and Gary Tuchman, "Chattanooga shooting: 4 Marines killed, a dead suspect and questions of motive," CNN, July 17, 2015, edition.cnn.com/2015/07/16/us/tennessee-naval-reserve-shooting.

On the morning of July 16, 2015, Abdulazeez parked in front of a military recruiting center in Chattanooga and shot through the glass doors at personnel inside. From the recruiting center, he drove seven miles to a U.S. Navy operational support center and killed four U.S. Marines, fatally wounding one U.S. Navy sailor. Abdulazeez was killed by responding police.Catherine E. Shoichet and Gary Tuchman, "Chattanooga shooting: 4 Marines killed, a dead suspect and questions of motive," CNN, July 17, 2015, edition.cnn.com/2015/07/16/us/tennessee-naval-reserve-shooting.

Abdulazeez was born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the country.Yasmin Khorram, Ben Brumfield and Scott Zamost, "Chattanooga shooter changed after Mideast visit, friend says," CNN, September 15, 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/tennessee-shooter-mohammad-youssuf-abdulazeez/. Abdulazeez’s father, Youssuf, was twice investigated by the FBI—in 1994 and 2002—for donating money to Palestinian groups suspected to be involved in terrorism.Craig Whitlock, Adam Goldman and Greg Miller, "Marines’ killer set off no red flags," Washington Post, July 18, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/gunman-in-marine-slayings-described-life-as-prison-days-before-rampage/2015/07/17/86d1f988-2c67-11e5-a250-42bd812efc09_story.html?hpid=z1. In 1996, the Abdulazeez family immigrated to the United States and settled near Chattanooga, Tennessee. They were later naturalized as U.S. citizens."4 Marines killed in attacks on Chattanooga military facilities," CBS News, July 16, 2015, www.cbsnews.com/news/report-police-officer-shot-near-tennessee-army-recruiting-center/ Muhammad attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 2012.Yasmin Khorram, Ben Brumfield and Scott Zamost, "Chattanooga shooter changed after Mideast visit, friend says," CNN, September 15, 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/tennessee-shooter-mohammad-youssuf-abdulazeez/.

In May 2013, Muhammad Abdulazeez was hired by the Perry Nuclear Power Plant but was fired after just ten days for failing a drug test."Sailor shot in Tenn. terror attack dies; gunman reportedly failed drug test at nuclear plant," Fox News, July 19, 2015, www.foxnews.com/us/2015/07/19/sailor-in-chattanooga-shooting-has-died-death-toll-now-5.html. His journal, recovered by the FBI after the shooting, documented Muhammad spiraling into depression after losing his job. He wrote about committing suicide or “becoming a martyr,” and abused opioids, painkillers, marijuana, and sleeping pills. In the months leading up to the shooting, Abdulazeez fell increasingly into debt and considered declaring bankruptcy.Brian Ross, Doug Lantz, and James Gordon Meek, "Chattanooga Shooter Researched Religious Justification For Violence: Official," ABC News, July 20, 2015, abcnews.go.com/US/chattanooga-shooting-fbi-recovers-gunmans-disturbing-diary/story?id=32558310. Adding to his depression was an April 2015 DUI arrest which reportedly brought great embarrassment to his family.Yasmin Khorram, Ben Brumfield and Scott Zamost, "Chattanooga shooter changed after Mideast visit, friend says," CNN, September 15, 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/tennessee-shooter-mohammad-youssuf-abdulazeez/.

Abdulazeez’s depression was mirrored by his growing radicalization. Starting in 2003, Abdulazeez had traveled to Jordan a total of five times, most recently in 2014 for seven months.Richard Fausset, "Chattanooga Gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez: ‘Life Is Short and Bitter,'" New York Times, July 16, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/us/chattanooga-shooting-suspect-was-ordinary-boy-neighbors-recall.html?_r=0. He stayed with his uncle who was described by a U.S. law enforcement official as “radical.”Jonathan Dienst and Miguel Almaguer, "Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez Downloaded Recordings From Radical Cleric, Officials Say," NBC News, July 21, 2015, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/chattanooga-shooting/mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez-downloaded-recordings-radical-cleric-officials-say-n395986. Searches of Abdulazeez’s computer after the attack revealed that he researched whether martyrdom would absolve him of his sins.Joan Garrett McClane and Joy Lukachick Smith, "Why he did it: a look at the Chattanooga gunman's motives," Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 21, 2015, www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/jul/21/abdulazeez-lived-two-lives/315648/. A blog post, dated just two days before the shooting, lamented that “life is short and bitter” and that Muslims should not allow “the opportunity to submit to Allah ... pass you by.”Richard Fausset, "Chattanooga Gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez: ‘Life Is Short and Bitter,'" New York Times, July 16, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/us/chattanooga-shooting-suspect-was-ordinary-boy-neighbors-recall.html?_r=0. A search of Abdulazeez’s house after the attack discovered both downloaded and physical CD recordings of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki.Jonathan Dienst and Miguel Almaguer, "Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez Downloaded Recordings From Radical Cleric, Officials Say," NBC News, July 21, 2015, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/chattanooga-shooting/mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez-downloaded-recordings-radical-cleric-officials-say-n395986.

According to U.S. law enforcement, Abdulazeez was not in contact with any ISIS recruiters. A U.S. counterterror official stated, “This case appears to be much more like the old model, where he was interested in radical Islam and sought to learn more about it online by looking at videos and readings.”Michael Schmidt and Jody Rudoren, "Chattanooga Gunman Researched Islamic Martyrdom, Officials Say," New York Times, July 21, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/us/chattanooga-gunman-mohammod-abdulazeez.html.

 
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