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4 Marines Killed in Possible Terrorist Attack on Military Facilities in Tennessee

Four Marines are dead after two shootings at military installations in Tennessee.

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Four Marines were shot dead at two military facilities in Tennessee in what federal authorities are investigating as a possible terrorist attack. It’s the bloodiest attack on an American military installation since 13 soldiers were killed at Texas’s Fort Hood.

CBS News, the Associated Press, and local television station WJHL have identified the gunman as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Earlier Thursday, FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold said the bureau “will treat this like a terrorism investigation until we determine that it is not.” The FBI has not yet confirmed the shooter’s identity or released any information on his background.

But SITE Intelligence Group reported Thursday that Abdulazeez maintained a blog that published two Islam-related posts on July 13. In those posts, he wrote that “life is short and bitter” and encouraged Muslims not to let “the opportunity to submit to allah [sic] … pass you by.” He also mentioned that companions of the prophet “fought Jihad for the sake of Allah.”

Although it was not immediately clear if Abdulazeez claimed affiliation with any extremist groups, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian earlier said authorities were treating the shooting as an “act of domestic terrorism.”

At the same conference, Fred Fletcher, Chattanooga’s police chief, said the person responsible for the attack carried numerous weapons. An unknown number of other people were hurt in the shootings, although the severity of their injuries is not known. The identities of the Marines who died are not yet known.

The first shooting took place at a military facility on Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga. The second occurred about two hours later at a recruiting office not far away from the first attack. The military personnel stationed at such facilities are rarely, if ever, armed.

“The shootings took place at a Network Operations Support Center operated by the U.S. Navy and at an armed forces recruiting center,” the Defense Department said in a statement confirming the shootings. “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.”

Kelli Bland, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, told the New York Times four Army recruiters were in the latter facility but were not hurt.

The White House released a statement saying President Barack Obama had been briefed by his national security staff “and will continue to get updates as warranted.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took to Twitter to offer condolences.

The shooting is the worst attack on a domestic military site since Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, killed 13 and injured more than 30, at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009. The Pentagon and the FBI called that incident an act of workplace violence, not a terrorist attack, even though U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda-linked cleric who worked to radicalize Muslims abroad, in the run-up to the massacre. Awlaki, an American citizen, was later killed in a U.S. drone strike.

It also brings to mind a 2009 shooting at a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas. A Muslim convert named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, born Carlos Leon Bledsoe, admitted to firing on the facility. He claimed he was inspired by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s Yemeni offshoot. Pvt. William Long, 23, was killed, and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, was wounded by Muhammad.

Muhammed was charged with first-degree murder and 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act. At his 2011 trial, he pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life.

The new shootings come as the FBI cracks down on Americans for allegedly collaborating with the Islamic State. In the run-up to the July 4 weekend, federal police arrested more than 10 people for planning attacks, according to FBI Director James Comey. Comey has also said that the FBI was tracking roughly 150 U.S. citizens who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State. American authorities have expressed frequent concerns that some of those militants could use their U.S. passports to return home to carry out strikes.

Photo credit: Twitter user @Mike_Ball423

Corrections, July 16, 2015: The name of the Democratic senator from California is Dianne Feinstein. A previous version of this article misspelled her first name. Also, the age of William Long, the private who was killed in the 2009 Arkansas shooting, was 23. An earlier version of this article mistakenly said his age was 24.

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