CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — An Islamic gunman shot and killed four U.S. marines at two separate Tennessee military facilities on Thursday before being fatally wounded by police.
The shootings were carried out within two hours of each other and are believed to have been committed by the same gunman, who has been identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24. Abdulazeez is believed to be a U.S. citizen of Kuwaiti origin and a resident of Tennessee.
According to initial reports, ISIS, which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, had Tweeted about Chattanooga just minutes before the attacks were carried out, but the Tweet may have actually been sent out hours after the attack due to it being from the Pacific time zone.
“O American dogs, soon you will see wonders,” it read, with the hashtags #Chattanooga, #USA and #ISIS. The Tweet included a photograph that resembled “Jihadi John” from ISIS’ Iraqi beheading videos.
“The shootings took place at a Network Operations Support Center operated by the U.S. Navy and at an armed forces recruiting center,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement. “Names of the deceased will be released following next of kin notification. We are working with local and federal authorities. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
The first incident occurred this morning shortly after 10:45 local time at the Lee Highway Naval recruiting center, where Abdulazeez then led police on a chase. Two hours later, he carried out a second attack at a Amnicola Highway military installation.
Fred Wright, a Carquest salesman near the Naval center, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he heard gunfire and then saw military personnel rush through the area.
“I just heard all the shooting,” he stated. “All of them (Navy recruiters) starting running through the brush and the briars. One of them was yelling, ‘Call 911, someone’s shooting at us.'”
Wright then called 911 as three military personnel hurried inside his store.
“[H]e just pulled up. I didn’t think anything of it,” witness Laneesha Lewis also told reporters about the shooting at the Lee Highway location. “And he had his drop-top and he looked to the side. And the next thing we know, he lifted up his arms like this and a big black gun. And just it was one shot, and then it was endless shots, one after another—just unloading.”
Police shot Abdulazeez dead, but it is unclear as to when and where the confrontation occurred. In addition to the four killed in the shootings, a police officer and two service personnel were injured, one critically.
“We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until we determine it was not,” Edward Reinhold of the FBI told reporters. “We have not determined if it was an act of terrorism or a criminal act.”
“While we expect our sailors and Marines to go into harm’s way, and they do so without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and unfathomable,” Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy, said in a statement.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also decried the shootings.
“I know the whole rest of the state joins me in just a feeling of being sick in our stomach for the lives lost and the senselessness of this,” he said.