CHATTANOOGA (WATE) – The Secretary of the Navy announced Wednesday afternoon all five U.S. service members shot and killed on July 16 in Chattanooga, as well as a Marine who was injured, will receive the Purple Heart.
The announcement came just hours after the FBI broke months of silence over what investigators believe inspired Mohammed Abdulazeez to kill the five men, saying it was an act of terrorism.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith were all killed in the attach. Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was injured.
Speaking at a press conference in New York Wednesday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey said Abdulazeez was inspired by terrorist organization propaganda. Comey had previously said in a visit to Nashville that a motive in the shooting may never be released.
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“We’ve concluded Chattanooga was inspired by foreign terrorist organization,” Comey said. “These people are consuming poison on the internet and radicalizing.
Comey says the model of terrorism is changing, making it difficult for law enforcement to stop it. He says social media sites like Twitter are creating opportunities to spread the message of terror worldwide.
“San Bernardino, as with Chattanooga, another terrorist attack that we’ve dealt with in recent times, involve people consuming poison on the internet and radicalizing,” said Comey. He also said law enforcement is finding it difficult to crack terror communications, as devices are being encrypted from “end to end.”
“The threat we face from foreign terrorist organizations, especially ISIL, is one we’ve face for a couple of years at least and it has three dimensions to it,” said Comey. “The first is ISIL is still endeavoring to attract people to travel to their so called Caliphate, second is they are hoping to inspire those that would not travel to kill in place through their very slick propaganda and third, they are increasingly attempting to send operatives out of Syria from among their foreign fighters they’ve attracted there to conduct a task in Europe and if they can in the homeland. You saw that last dimension of the threat manifest in Paris. You saw the second dimension of the threat manifest in San Bernardino just a week or so ago.”
The closer the FBI is to those communities and local law enforcement, Comey said the more likely they are to stop those attacks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.