US seeks motives for killing of servicemen
INVESTIGATORS yesterday were probing the communications of a gunman who killed five United States servicemen in Chattanooga city to determine his possible motives, following reports that he allegedly sent a text message declaring "war" hours before the rampage.
Four marines and a sailor were killed in Thursday's attack on two military centres in Tennessee before the gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, died in a shoot-out with police.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the attack as an act of terrorism, but said it was premature to speculate on the gunman's motives.
The FBI has asked foreign intelligence agencies to help trace Abdulazeez's movements and activities abroad, and analysts are tracing his activity on social media.
A law-enforcement official told The New York Times on Saturday that investigators were looking into a text message Abdulazeez allegedly sent to a friend before the shooting to probe possible motives.
According to the newspaper, the text reportedly included an Islamic verse: "Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him."
The Times said a friend of the gunman had been interviewed by the FBI and that investigators were trying to verify the text. Abdulazeez was a naturalised US citizen born in Kuwait.
Meanwhile, the gunman's family said he suffered from depression for years and condemned the "heinous act of violence".
"There are no words to describe our shock, horror and grief," the family said in a statement.
"The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved," it added.
While a firm connection between the 24-year-old and radical Islam has not been established, the shooting follows a series of attacks or thwarted attacks in the US and other countries by Muslims claiming to be inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or other militant groups.
Abdulazeez returned from a trip to Jordan last year concerned about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of the US and other countries to intervene, according to two friends who had known him since elementary school.
He later bought three assault rifles on an online marketplace and used them for target practice, they said.
"That trip was eye-opening for him. He learnt a lot about the traditions and culture of the Middle East," said one of the two friends, the person who received the text message.
"He felt Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia were not doing enough to help, and that they were heavily influenced by the US."