Four Marines and gunman killed in Tennessee shootings


Four Marines were killed on Thursday by a gunman who opened fire at two military offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before being fatally shot in an attack officials called a brazen, brutal act of domestic terrorism.

The FBI named the suspect as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, but said it was too early to speculate on a motive for the rampage, which comes at a time when U.S. military and law enforcement authorities are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by “lone wolves” to domestic targets.

“We are treating this as an act of domestic terrorism,” Bill Killian, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said earlier, adding that no official determination of the nature of the crime had yet been made and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not ruled anything out.

“While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available,” the agency said in a statement.

NBC reported that Abdulazeez was a naturalized American born in Kuwait and U.S. officials said law enforcement authorities were investigating whether he was inspired by Islamic State or a similar militant group.

According to a resume believed to have been posted online by Abdulazeez, he attended high school in a Chattanooga suburb and graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree.

“I remember him being very creative. He was a very light minded kind of individual. All his videos were always very unique and entertaining,” said Greg Raymond, 28, who worked with Abdulazeez on a high school television program.

“He was a really calm, smart and cool person who joked around. Like me he wasn't very popular so we always kind of got along. He seemed like a really normal guy,” Raymond said.

Mary Winter, president of the Colonial Shores Neighborhood Association, said she had known Abdulazeez and his family for more than 10 years and was stunned at the crime.

“We're all shocked and saddened,” Winter said. “He never caused any trouble. We can't believe that this happened. We were just planning to have a swim team banquet tonight.”

President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the victims' families and said officials will be prompt and thorough in getting answers on the shootings.

“It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion,” he said in a statement from the Oval Office.

The Department of Homeland Security was stepping up security at certain federal facilities and supporting the FBI investigation, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

Chattanooga is a city of about 173,000 people along the Tennessee River in the southeast of the state.

The suspect, seen driving an open-top Ford Mustang, is believed to have first gone to a joint military recruiting center in a strip mall and sprayed it with gunfire, riddling the glass facade with bullet holes.

“Everybody was at a standstill and as soon as he pulled away everyone scrambled trying to make sure everyone was OK,” said Erica Wright, who works two doors down from the center.

Armed forces recruiting centers are often located in shopping centers and other prominent places.

The gunman then drove off to a Naval Reserve Center about 6 miles (10 km) away, fatally shooting the four Marines before being shot and killed in a firefight with police.

Three others were wounded in the attacks, including a police officer reported in stable condition and a Marine.

The shootings began at about 10:45 a.m. local time (1445 GMT) and ended about 30 minutes later.

At least three people were wounded in the attacks, including a Marine and a Navy sailor who is in critical condition, according to the hospital. One of those hurt was a police officer who was in stable condition.

Police blocked access to the street where the suspected gunman lived in an upscale suburb. Only residents with photo IDs were allowed to pass and all cars coming and going were stopped.

Local media said memorial services for the victims would be held in various Chattanooga churches tonight.

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible,” said Nihad Awad, national director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Hundreds of groups back diversity on day of Klan rally in Memphis


Around 250 communal organizations and religious groups joined the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., in publishing a statement supporting diversity on the day the Ku Klux Klan staged a rally in the city.

“We believe our city is stronger and richer for its broad array of faith- and ethnic-based communities,” said the statement, which was wrapped around the front page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Saturday. “Because we don’t fear those who are different, we can embrace all the diverse cultures and faiths that make up the beautiful mosaic that is Memphis.”

The ad, spearheaded by the Memphis Jewish Federation, drew signatories from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist groups and congregations, as well as numerous social action groups.

At the KKK rally at the Shelby County Courthouse in downtown Memphis, 61 Klansmen protested recent decisions by the city to rename parks commemorating Confederacy figures, notably Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was among the founders of the white supremacist group in the war's aftermath.

The rally, held in a driving rain, passed without event and did not clash with anti-Klan protests held separately.

City officials had expressed concerns of a repeat of clashes between Klansmen and protesters in 1998 that led to riots.

Students Link to Shoah With ‘Clips’


 

When George Jacobs heard about the children’s Holocaust project in Whitwell, Tenn., he immediately thought of Malka.

She was the emaciated young woman who had kissed the mezuzah on his lapel when the American airman had visited the infirmary at Mauthausen after World War II. When Jacobs returned several hours later, he learned that she had died; the memory was so painful that he told no one until he read about how in 2000, Whitwell middle-schoolers were collecting 6 million paper clips to commemorate the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Jacobs promptly mailed in a clip to represent Malka.

“[It] was so much of a closure for me,” he says in the powerful Miramax documentary, “Paper Clips.” “Malka has found a final resting place, not in Austria, Germany or Poland but in Appalachia, Tenn. I can’t get over that.”

Indeed, Whitwell (population 1,600) — with just two traffic lights, two gas stations, 10 churches and no Jews — seems an unusual place for a Holocaust memorial, especially one that has become an international cause cél?bre. But the low-income former mining community isn’t the first rural Christian town to teach tolerance through the Shoah, and to earn headlines in the process. Last week, students from Uniontown High in Uniontown, Kan., were in Los Angeles performing their internationally acclaimed play, “Life in a Jar,” about Holocaust rescuer Irena Sendler.

Whitwell’s project — like Uniontown’s — began because “our children didn’t have much opportunity to learn about other people,” middle school principal Linda Hooper said. So, in 1998, she sent assistant principal David Smith to a teacher training conference to “find something that would help students learn about other cultures.”

He found it in a Holocaust educational seminar.

“We had never discussed the subject in our high school, and to be honest I don’t think I’d ever met a Jew,” Smith told The Journal. “When the survivor was done speaking, I was in tears and I thought, ‘This is it. This is how we’re going to teach tolerance to our children.”

That October, Smith and a co-teacher began reading aloud to students from books such as Eli Wiesel’s “Night.” When the concept of 6 million proved incomprehensible to the middle-schoolers, the teenagers resolved to launch a collection to better understand the magnitude of the Shoah. They decided on paper clips after learning that Norwegians had worn them to show solidarity with Jews during the war.

After German journalists wrote articles and a book on the project, letters and clips from 19 countries inundated the school, including submissions from Tom Hanks and President Clinton.

“We counted paper clips night and day that summer,” Hooper said.

Meanwhile, students scrapped their initial idea to melt the collection into a sculpture: “These paper clips represented people who had been through the fire, and we did not want that to happen again,” Hooper said. Their new goal: to house the clips and documents in an actual cattle car that had transported Jews to concentration camps.

As international media descended on Whitwell, Hooper felt her community was undergoing trial by fire. Newspapers cited the town’s proximity to the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and to the courthouse where John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution in the 1925 “monkey trial.”

“It was the image that people often get of the South: that we’re all stupid, prejudiced rednecks,” Hooper said.

Thus she ignored the Virginia-based filmmakers who called her twice a day for weeks about making “Paper Clips” in 2001. Hooper refused to speak with them, in fact, until she had “phoned everyone for whom they’d ever made a documentary,” she said.

When co-directors Joe Fab and Elliot Berlin finally sat down with her that spring, “she ushered us in, then kept us waiting,” Berlin recalled. When the tall, silver-haired principal finally looked up from her work, “She said, ‘If I let you make this film, and you make my children look like ignorant hillbillies, I will eat your heart for breakfast,” Fab said. “Somehow, we got her to understand that we wanted to make the movie because we already respected her children.”

Over the next 18 months, the directors captured the students as they sorted more than 30 million clips and awaited the cattle car that had been purchased for $6,000 from a German railroad museum. It arrived, via ship and rail, in time for the memorial’s dedication on Nov. 9, 2001, attended by the entire town.

“It was amazing seeing children sing ‘We Shall Never Forget’ who had never previously heard of the Holocaust,” Fab said.

Equally moving was the final interview with Smith: “When the project began, I was very prejudiced in many areas,” the assistant principal says in the film. “[The memorial] has made me a better … father, a better teacher, a better man.”

Jacobs is grateful for the endeavor.

“It’s giving [Malka] a resting place among young people who love her and have compassion for her, and you couldn’t ask for a better resting place than that,” he said.

“Paper Clips,” which recently won the Jewish Image Award for crosscultural understanding, opens Nov. 24 in Los Angeles. The Anti-Defamation League will provide educational materials on the film this spring; information will be available then at www.adl.org.

 

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