Shootings crystallize FBI terrorism concerns

WASHINGTON — The deadly shootings at military sites in Tennessee illustrate the threat that FBI officials have warned about: violence directed against a vulnerable government target by a lone gunman with apparent terrorist aspirations.

The FBI has not detailed a motive, but Thursday’s attacks that killed four Marines and one sailor are under investigation as a potential act of terrorism, with authorities combing through the gunman’s past to look for travel, contacts and online writings.

The rampage unfolded as the federal government has raised alarms about the online spread of terrorist propaganda, including repeated exhortations by groups such as the Islamic State for sympathizers to target police officers and military installations.

It came two months after two men opened fire outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas before being killed by police, and during a year when several dozen people in the United States have been charged with supporting terrorism, with more than 10 arrested in the month before the July 4 holiday.

“This is the new normal,” said Will McCants, a terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. If a terrorist group is looking to influence public opinion and generate fear, he said, “this kind of tactic has a lot going for it.”

One federal law enforcement official said investigators did not immediately find an extensive online presence involving the gunman, 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, or evidence that he was directly influenced or inspired by the Islamic State. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the line between inspired and directed is blurred in an age of pervasive social media, where anyone with a computer or smartphone can be exposed to what FBI Director James Comey has called “poison” propaganda from terrorist organizations.

Law enforcement officials describe an ongoing challenge in distinguishing those who merely consume and share messages and those actually motivated to commit violence. Authorities say there’s no question that social media platforms, coupled with the small-scale plots being devised, have made terrorist ideology more accessible than a decade ago. It can be easy for those who read messages, but do not post their own thoughts, to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.

“They have now spent a year, maybe a little longer, investing in this strategy,” Comey told reporters last week, in a reference to IS. “And what you’re seeing now is proof that it works. Americans all over the place responding to this constant push and feed and buzz.”

The Kuwait-born gunman, who was killed by police, was not under investigation and was not on the radar of federal law enforcement before the shooting, officials have said. He had visited Jordan last year, a U.S. official said Friday, and investigators will review those overseas travels for potential worrisome contacts with militants.

 

Business

Expanding Opportunity: Austin Ford Chrysler breaks ground on addition, renovation

Mower County

Volunteers are needed for the statewide bumble bee survey

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions June 3-10

Mower County

MnDOT asks motorists, riders to safely share the road during motorcycle convention in Rochester

Mower County

City of Austin to spray for mosquitoes

Mower County

Ikes to host steak cookout

Education

Education: Accolades

Blooming Prairie

Education: Blooming Prairie Honor Roll

Mower County

In Your Community: Duplicate Bridge

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

News

Family of bystander killed during Minneapolis police pursuit files lawsuit against the city

News

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on rapid-fire rifle bump stocks, reopening political fight

Agriculture

New influenza testing rule for dairy cows going to Minnesota fairs

Mower County

Warrant issued for Jeffer Lorenzo after he fails to show for sentencing

News

Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication

News

Audit finds Minnesota agency’s lax oversight fostered theft of $250M from federal food aid program

Adams

Partnerships celebrated during community event for Mower, Fillmore solar installations

Mower County

Mayo Ambulance training program hopes to increase EMT numbers

Business

Workforce Development one of nine organizations to receive funding to train underrepresented workers for clean energy careers

News

Minneapolis police officer killed while responding to a shooting call is remembered as a hero

Mower County

Documentary follows AHS class across 50 years

Mower County

2024 Friendship Wagon Train coming to the area

Agriculture

New funding available for continuous living cover grants

Mower County

MDH inviting well users to seminar on nitrates