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.

 

Education

APS board approves 2024-25 budget of $113.9 million

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Police seeking public’s help in relation to vandalism at Todd Park soccer fields

Mower County

City offers resources for cleanup efforts

Mower County

Institute’s Hoeppner receives $50K award from American Cancer Society

Mower County

APD swears in new officer

Mower County

Austin Utilities issues peak alert for Monday

Mower County

Waters drop around Austin, clean-up begins

Mower County

Walz authorizes Minnesota National Guard to support emergency flood operations

Mower County

Afternoon storms brings more flash flooding to Austin

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Austin man injured in Friday evening crash

Mower County

Photos: Flooding creates issues across the area

Mower County

Area copes with aftermath of heavy rains, flooding

Mower County

Sargeant man involved in five-car crash in Olmsted County

Mower County

Photos: Llama Party — Lamapalooza settles in for another year at the fairgrounds

News

‘Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ begins June 27

Education

Apply for free during Minnesota State Week

Education

Austin grad part of SDSU team comes up just short for quarter-scale tractor threepeat

Education

Education: Accolades

Mower County

In Your Community: Duplicate Bridge

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

News

Judy Garland’s hometown is raising funds to purchase stolen ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers

News

Historic Superior lighthouse sold at auction 5 years ago is available once again

News

NY prosecutors urge judge to keep gag order blocking Trump from criticizing jurors

Mower County

Humane Society recommends tips for keeping your pet safe during hot weather