On July 16, 2015, a gunman opened fire in Chattanooga, Tennessee, targeting two separate United States military installations. The first shooting took place when the gunman began shooting at the glass doors of the Combined Armed Forces Recruiting Center while remaining in his car. All servicemen and women escaped through the back of the recruitment center, although one marine was injured in the crossfire.
The shooter then drove seven miles to the next location, the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Reserve Center. The gunman ran his car through the security gate and moved methodically through the facility, killing four marines before he was shot and killed by Chattanooga police officers. One of the shooting victims, a United States Navy sailor, died of his injuries two days later.
The suspect was identified as Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born 24-year-old who holds Jordanian citizenship. Abdulazeez was an American citizen who grew up in Chattanooga and went to high school and university in the area. He was known in the community as being a disciplined martial-arts fighter, a top student, and a devout Muslim who kept in touch with his Middle Eastern roots. The FBI has determined that Abdulazeez acted alone and has labelled him a “home-grown violent extremist,” yet authorities are still investigating a motive for the shootings.
As an international security professional, I have studied conflicts and terrorism across the globe, yet never imagined that my hometown of Chattanooga would endure a suspected act of domestic terrorism. The attack has injected widespread panic and fear throughout the rest of the nation, especially to residents near similar military installations.
Terrorism is a constantly evolving tactic, and we are now seeing another shift in its paradigm that could be linked to the installation of new robust counterterrorism methods implemented after the September 11th terrorist attacks. These new measures make it more challenging today for terrorist groups to organize an elaborate, high profile attack.
Terrorist organizations are now using social media propaganda to inspire individualsresiding in Western societies. These small-scale, underdeveloped, and unsophisticated attacks can still reach the core of what terrorism tries to achieve: widespread fear, panic, death, and the sending of a message. Recent international examples include the shootings at Westgate mall in Kenya; the shooting in downtown Ottawa; the hostage crisis in Sydney; and the shootings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
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About the author: Brindley Mitchell is a research analyst at Intrepid 24/7, with a specialization in international security.