Five days after four U.S. Marines and one sailor were killed in an attack described as an act of domestic terrorism in Chattanooga, Tennessee, President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff from July 21 to July 25.
Speaking at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 21, the president called the victims “American heroes.”
“God bless these American heroes,” Obama told the audience. “As a grateful nation, we must stand up for them and honor them, now and forever.”
Obama added, “Our nation endures because citizens like you put on the uniform and serve to keep us free. We endure because your families stay strong on the homefront. We endure because the freedoms and values you protected are now defended by a new generation — Americans just like our five patriots who gave their lives in Chattanooga.”
According to U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, the shooting is being treated as an “act of domestic terrorism,” CNN reported. The assailant, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, died shortly after the incident.
While the federal government has been hesitant to label attacks as terrorism in the past, FBI spokesman Ed Reinhold said the agency “will treat this as a terrorism investigation until we can confirm it is not.”
ABC News reported on July 20 that Abdulazeez researched online for militant Islamic “guidance” on committing mass murders, specifically against U.S. military targets. Intelligence officials have yet to connect the attack with the Islamic State group, also referred to as ISIS and ISIL, despite numerous calls from the terrorist group that support an attack on the U.S.
“I don’t think that there is any evidence it was ISIL-inspired. He may have been seeking some religious guidance to conduct an act. He could readily find that anywhere online,” a senior official revealed to ABC News.