US shooter had not been on radar: mayor

Chloe Morrison
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A 24-year-old gunman opened fire at two US military centers in Tennessee, killing four Marines in a rampage that officials said was being investigated as an act of "domestic terrorism"

A 24-year-old gunman opened fire at two US military centers in Tennessee, killing four Marines in a rampage that officials said was being investigated as an act of "domestic terrorism" (AFP Photo/Chloe Morrison)

Chattanooga (United States) (AFP) - The young man who killed four Marines in the latest shooting rampage in America had not given authorities any reason to place him under surveillance, the mayor said Friday.

Chattanooga, Tennessee mayor Andy Berke spoke as federal and other authorities scrambled to try to determine a motive for Thursday's shootings at two military facilities in the southern US state.

Three other people were wounded and the shooter died. Authorities have already said they are treating the case as one of "domestic terrorism".

It was a grimly familiar scenario for Americans -- another deadly shooting at a US military installation.

Although no motive has been established so far, fuel for fears of so-called "lone wolf" actors -- attackers with no known affiliation to an extremist group.

The gunman has been identified as 24-year-old Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, born in Kuwait but naturalized and raised in America.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry issued a statement Friday saying what while Abdulazeez was in fact born in Kuwait he was of Jordanian origin.

US media reports described him as having had a traditional American upbringing, including participation on school sports teams.

Mayor Berke, speaking on CNN early Friday, was asked whether the man had been on "the radar" of local authorities.

"He was not, as far as we know," Berke answered.

Berke added: "Much of that information that involves terrorism we get from the federal government. We certainly didn't have any indication that he was a threat or that yesterday something was going to happen."

Berke said investigators at all levels are examining any and all connections the shooter may have had.

"They are examining what his connections were anywhere and everywhere," the mayor said.

President Barack Obama called the shootings "heartbreaking" and asked Americans to pray for the relatives of the victims.

Bill Killian, the US federal prosecutor in that part of Tennessee, said the shootings was being treated as an "act of domestic terrorism."

"We are looking at every possible avenue -- whether it was terrorism, whether it was domestic, international or whether it was a simple criminal act," FBI special agent Ed Reinhold said.

"At this point, we don't have anything that directly ties him to an international terrorist organization," Reinhold said.

So far there has not been any indication that anyone else was involved in the shooting.


- 'Average Chattanooga family' -


Abdulazeez, a Muslim, lived in a leafy suburb of Chattanooga.

The attack came just before the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Abdulazeez graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in engineering.

A woman who attended Red Bank High School with him said he was a quiet kid and well-liked.

"He was friendly, funny, kind," Kagan Wagner told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "I never would have thought it would be him."

"They were your average Chattanooga family," Wagner said.

Scott Schrader, who coached Abdulazeez in mixed martial arts, told CNN he "seemed like the all-American kid."

In an apparent blog post written Monday, Abdulazeez said Muslims should not let "the opportunity to submit to Allah... pass you by," according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity on social media.


- Two targets -


The Marine Corps confirmed that all four victims were killed at a Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in the late morning. About 40 minutes earlier, the gunman had opened fire at a recruitment center several miles away.

Berke said Thursday that officers had described to him a "harrowing and violent scene -- bullets whizzing around them."

Investigators said Abdulazeez fired from inside his car at the recruitment center before moving to the reserve center, leaving his car and opening fire. They said an autopsy will be conducted to determine how Abdulazeez died.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had ordered increased security at "certain federal facilities, out of an abundance of caution."


- 'All shook up' -


Erica Wright said she witnessed the shooting at the recruiting center through the window of a hair salon two doors down.

"We heard one pop, really loud pop. So we went to the door to see what it was," Wright told CNN.

"We saw a guy in a silver Mustang just unloading on the naval recruiting place."

Wright said she watched in horror as the man reloaded his gun and opened fire again. He then backed up his car, pulled up to another part of the recruiting center and started shooting again.