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Lawmakers Pin Blame For Chattanooga Shooting On ISIS, But Evidence Is Lacking

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
20th July 2015 - Quoted by Justin Salhani - Think Progress

The recent murder of five American service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee has been dubbed an “ISIS-inspired attack” by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Investigators are hard at work examining the shooter’s personal property and looking into recent travels to the Middle East to see if they can find a connection to the radical Islamist group.

Fitting the ISIS mold perhaps, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was a lone, Muslim gunman who attacked service members. While evidence yet to be uncovered by the investigators may later indicate that this attack was inspired by ISIS (also called the Islamic State or ISIL) there is still no conclusive evidence that Abdulazeez had any connection to the group.

“At this time we have no indication that he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself,” Ed Reinhold, Chattanooga’s top FBI official, told reporters. He added that investigators have so far covered 70 leads.
In fact, CNN reported on Monday that Abdulazeez told a close friend ISIS was a “stupid group” that was “doing wrong” and “completely against Islam.”


“ISIS is a catchall term,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “What’s happening now is the same as what happened with al-Qaeda after 9/11 where ISIS is being used as a catchall for jihadism.”

Gartenstein-Ross said that it is important to note the major distinctions between various jihadi groups as well as those who commit such acts but are unaffiliated. “You have people who are from a Muslim background who might be engaged in terrorism and might not be with either of those groups,” he said.

“It is delicate trying to determine what is at the core of what motivates somebody,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “The first question is – in whose name or in what cause’s name was he carrying out this attack?”

In the case of Abdulazeez, this question is still not entirely clear. Gartenstein-Ross said there are usually various trajectories that lead an individual to perpetrating violent acts. These trajectories may be ideological, political, based on adrenaline or adventurism, or related to mental illness. The various motivations may not be mutually exclusive either.


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isis, radicalization