Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, the shooter who attacked two Chattanooga military facilities and killed four Marines on Thursday, took an approximately seven-month-long trip to Jordan in 2014 that is being scrutinized by counterterrorism investigators, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Officials are looking to see whether Abdulazeez might have visited other countries during that trip or had any contact with Islamist extremists.
Abdulazeez had visited Jordan a number of times in his life, according to the Journal. The New York Times reported that a federal official described the 24-year-old, who died at one of the sites of the attack, as a Kuwaiti-born Jordanian and naturalized United States citizen.
More from the Journal:
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are now trying to determine if he made connections, or drew inspiration, on that trip to later commit an act of violence once he returned to the U.S., these people said.
The FBI has been tracking hundreds of suspected supporters of the terror group Islamic State, but Mr. Abdulazeez wasn’t on their radar as a potential threat, according to people familiar with the probe.
Federal officials also told multiple news outlets that Abdulazeez’s father had been investigated years ago for possible ties to a terrorist group and placed on a watchlist, from which he was eventually removed, but cautioned that the investigation did not lead to any charges against the father.
The SITE Intelligence Group reported that Abdulazeez maintained a blog to which he he had posted as recently as Monday.
“Brothers and sisters don’t be fooled by your desires, this life is short and bitter and the opportunity to submit to Allah may pass you by,’’ one of the posts said.
Even if he wrote the posts, the Journal reported “there is nothing suggestive of violence in the posts, and they don’t offer a motive for attacking U.S. military sites,” according to law enforcement officials.
The Homeland Security Department is beefing up security at certain federal facilities “out of an abundance of caution.”
“We’ve also been in contact with the Department of Defense to make sure all our defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant as we sort through exactly what happened,” President Obama said on Thursday.
ISIS has for months been encouraging lone-wolf attacks in the United States, and last month an ISIS spokesman called for fighters to turn the Muslim holy month of Ramadan into a time of “calamity for the infidels.” Shortly after that call, a trio of terrorist attacks in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait killed more than 60 people on a single day—many of them Muslims—though there wasn’t any early evidence that the attacks were coordinated.
Azhar S. Sheikh, a founding member of the board of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, where Abdulazeez had attended mosque in recent months, told the Times that the mosque was in mourning for the Marines and had canceled celebrations planned for Friday’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.
“We have canceled out of respect and remembrance for our fallen Marines,” Sheikh said.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council said that Eid is the biggest holiday of the year and was a particularly shocking and outrageous time for such an attack.