The Obama administration finally appears comfortable acknowledging the obvious: The July 16 killing of five U.S. military personnel in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was an act of Islamic terrorism.
Kuwaiti-born gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez went on a rampage at a recruiting center and another U.S. military installation this summer, but U.S. officials were reticent to call the attack terrorism. Then-U.S. Attorney Bill Killian told reporters on July 16 that an investigation would determine the attack’s classification, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch said a “national security investigation” would take place.
The waffling is over. FBI Director James Comey twice said Abdulazeez’s shooting was an act of terror during a New York news conference Wednesday.
“We’ve investigated Chattanooga as a terror attack from the beginning,” Comey said while standing next to NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, Fox News reported. “The Chattanooga killer was inspired by a foreign terror organization. It’s hard to entangle which particular source … there are lots of competing poisons out there.”
Abdulazeez died in a shootout with police on the day of the attack.
The FBI’s decision clears the way for victims to receive Purple Hearts. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., has introduced a non-binding resolution in Congress calling for Purple Hearts to be awarded.
“These men proudly served their country, and several made the ultimate sacrifice to save others,” Fleischmann said Monday, the Associated Press reported.
The slow recognition of Islamic terror in the Chattanooga case, called a “semantic dance” Wednesday by Fox News, mirrors Obama’s reaction to the Nov. 5, 2009, terror attack at Fort Hood, Texas. Former U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded 32 others in what was originally called by the U.S. Army an act of “workplace violence.”
It took the federal government until this April to call Hasan’s massacre an act of terror. He was found guilty on 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 of attempted murder Aug. 23, 2013.
Obama’s new-found willingness to call the Chattanooga shooting an act of terror came in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, massacre that killed 14 and wounded 21 on Dec. 2.
“As we’ve become better at preventing complex attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society,” Obama said from the White House Dec. 7. “It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009, in Chattanooga earlier this year and now in San Bernardino.”
Former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein told AP that public perception of Obama’s handling of Islamic terror threats may be forcing his hand.
“What has changed is U.S. and world perception about terrorists and how the U.S. is combating terrorism. That national pulse about terrorism is high,” Weinstein said.
Further clarification of the Chattanooga attack is expected to be announced later this week, an FBI spokeswoman told Fox.