Chattanooga gunman wrote of suicide and martyrdom, official says

Officials say Mohammad Abdulazeez, 24, killed five servicemen in a rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Officials say Mohammad Abdulazeez, 24, killed five servicemen in a rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Published Jul. 21, 2015

Long before he killed five servicemen last week in Chattanooga, Tenn., the gunman wrote about suicidal thoughts and "becoming a martyr," the New York Times reported Monday, citing an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official.

The writings have provided investigators with their clearest picture yet of the gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez — a deeply troubled young man using drugs and facing an imminent appearance in criminal court on a charge of driving while intoxicated. The FBI has obtained and is poring over the writings.

A family spokesman characterized the writings, which are at least a year old, as a loose assemblage of Abdulazeez's thoughts, some of which he described as gibberish and some clearly reflecting someone who was very depressed.

As far back as 2013, Abdulazeez wrote about suicide and martyrdom, said the intelligence official, who has been briefed on the writings and spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Still, the official said, the writings do not describe planning for any specific attack, leaving the authorities struggling to piece together a motive for Abdulazeez, 24, to mount an assault on two military sites Thursday.

The authorities say there is a strong likelihood that he received some kind of assistance in planning the attack, perhaps financial aid in obtaining the weapons and ammunition he used, and that is another area being investigated, the intelligence official said. But it remains unclear whether anyone who helped Abdulazeez was aware of what he intended to do.

The FBI, working with Jordanian officials, is examining what impact a seven-month trip to that country last year might have had on Abdulazeez, especially given his mental state. Investigators want to know whom he met there, and whether someone he came into contact with might have inspired the attacks, or whether daily exposure to news and conversation about the war in neighboring Syria somehow set in motion his planning.

His parents are from Jordan, and he is known to have visited relatives there more than once. He was born in Kuwait and had lived in Tennessee most of his life, and was a naturalized citizen.

The intelligence official said there was still no evidence that Abdulazeez was directed or inspired by the Islamic State or any other extremist group.