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17 Jul, 2015 18:12

Marines killed in Chattanooga attack identified as authorities search for motive

Marines killed in Chattanooga attack identified as authorities search for motive

Condolences are streaming in from across the US after the four Marines killed in Thursday’s shooting in Chattanooga were identified. Authorities are still guessing at the motives of the attacker, who they say had no known links to international terrorism.

Officials and families have confirmed the names of the four Marines gunned down in the attack: Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt, Sergeant Carson Holmquist, and Lance Corporal Skip Wells.

Sullivan, 40, was a veteran with two combat tours in Iraq under his belt. Wells, 21, was a fresh graduate of Georgia Southern University who had just completed US Marine Corps basic training. Wyatt, 37, was from Arkansas but lived in Chattanooga with his wife and two children. Holmquist, 27, was from Wisconsin, and leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old son.

The four men belonged to an artillery reserve unit that served three tours in the Iraq War. During its first deployment in 2004-2005, the unit took part in the Battle of Fallujah, firing more rounds than any artillery battery since Vietnam, according to the Times Free Press.

Visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam called Thursday “a horrible day for and a tragic day for all of Tennessee.”

He has ordered flags at the state capitol and state government buildings across the state to be lowered to half-mast in honor of the fallen Marines.

“I think I join all Tennesseans in being both sickened and saddened by this,” Governor Haslam said.

READ MORE: Everything we know about the Tennessee shooter so far

Federal law enforcement officials say they are still trying to determine the motive of the shooter, identified yesterday as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a native of Kuwait who also had Jordanian citizenship. One source close to the investigation told the Wall Street Journal that Abdulazeez spent about seven months in Jordan last year, and had visited the country several times before.

Abdulazeez came to the US in 1996. He lived in the upscale Chattanooga neighborhood of Hixson for at least 17 years, and attended Red Bank High School before getting an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

In his high school yearbook entry, Abdulazeez had written, “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”

“The American Muslim community is shocked and outraged by this senseless attack – particularly on the eve of Eid, our biggest holiday of the year,” said the Muslim Public Affairs Council in a statement Thursday.

Friday marked the feast of Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In Chattanooga, however, all Eid activities and prayers were canceled “in light of the tragedy that took place today in our city,” said a sign posted at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga. “The families of the victims are in our thoughts and prayers.”

“We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms as one of cowardice and hate," Bassam Issa, the society's president, said in a statement.

While condemning the attack and expressing solidarity with the families of the slain, US government officials also cautioned against a rush to judgment.

The Navy called Thursday’s shooting a “tragedy” that was both “devastating and senseless.”

“It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion,” said President Barack Obama, speaking at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

“We caution that, at this time, there are many unconfirmed and possibly false reports about events. Department officials are actively supporting the local response to this incident,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, however, called the attack “heinous” and a “shameful and cowardly act of violence,” instructing the FBI to take the lead in the national security investigation into the shooting.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, blamed Islamic State (ISIS), a terror group operating in Iraq and Syria.

“My judgment and my experience is that it was an ISIS-inspired attack,” McCaul said, visiting the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Friday. “The targets are identical to the targets called by ISIS to attack.”