Lawyer: Tennessee shooter's uncle detained in Jordan

Lawyer: Tennessee shooter's uncle detained in Jordan

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — An uncle of the man who killed four Marines & a sailor in Tennessee has been in custody in Jordan since a day after the attacks on two military sites, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Abed al-Kader Ahmad al-Khateeb told The Associated Press that he was barred from seeing his client & that family members were moreover prevented from visiting the detainee. Computers & cellphones were taken from the man's home, yet he has not been charged with anything, the attorney said.

Al-Khateeb identified his client as Asaad Ibrahim Asaad Haj Ali, a maternal uncle of the Chattanooga attacker, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

p>A Jordanian official said Tuesday that he is sure the uncle & "other relevant people" in Jordan were being questioned, yet he would not elaborate & or confirm that the uncle was detained. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.

Abdulazeez spent several months in Jordan last year under a mutual agreement with his parents to assist him obtain away from drugs, alcohol & a group of friends they considered to be a offensive influence, according to a person close to his family. That person moreover spoke on condition of anonymity, out of concern it would have business repercussions.

Relatives turned to Jordan after their health insurer refused to approve an in-patient treatment program for Abdulazeez's addictions to drug & alcohol, the person said.

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An FBI spokesman has declined to comment on that information.

Jordan is one of the most Westernized countries in the Middle East, with alcohol sold openly. However, the kingdom has moreover seen the spread of Islamic militant ideas in recent years, especially following the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Abdulazeez stayed with the uncle in Jordan, yet only to assist him with his small cellphone business, the attorney said. Neither Abdulazeez nor his uncle was religious or belonged to any sort of political organization, al-Khateeb said.

"The uncle is a regular person, he has a company, he is a businessman, he has no relation with any militant group or organization," al-Khateeb said. "He cares approximately his work & his family, & Muhammad is just his relative, the son of his sister. That's it."

Al-Khateeb is a prominent attorney & member of the Freedom Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest & largest opposition group in Jordan. The Brotherhood is part of a regional movement of the same name. In Jordan, it has distanced itself from the Islamic State extremist group.

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In the U.S., authorities are struggling to understand Abdulazeez's motive. Investigators have described their search as a domestic terrorism probe.

According to a U.S. official familiar with the probe, investigators have found writings from Abdulazeez that reference Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who encouraged & inspired attacks on the homeland & was killed in a U.S. drone strike in September 2011. The official was not authorized to discuss by name an ongoing investigation & spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, investigators have said they have not found evidence that Abdulazeez was specifically directed by someone to carry out the attacks.

The FBI moreover has found other writings, from late 2013, not long after Abdulazeez was fired from a power plant job because of what a federal official has said was a failed drug test, a person close to the family said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid business repercussions.

On a few loose sheets of paper found in the family home, Abdulazeez, clearly depressed, wrote that he was a failure & his life was worthless, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid business repercussions.

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People gather at the scene of a military recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday, July 20 …

The person said these writings were described to him by the family, & that he hasn't read them himself. The family was not aware of them before authorities found them, the person added.

Many who knew Abdulazeez have described a clean-cut high school wrestler who graduated from college with an engineering degree & attended a local mosque.

"Everything seemed fine. He was normal. He was telling me work was going great," said one of the friends, Ahmed Saleen Islam, 26, who knew Abdulazeez through the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga & saw him at the mosque two or three nights before the attacks.

But the person close to the family talked approximately a darker side.

Abdulazeez was first treated by a child psychiatrist for depression when he was 12 or 13 years old.

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The family does not know if Abdulazeez ever received a specific mental health diagnosis, the person said. He clearly suffered episodes of depression & sometimes went for days without sleep while he was out partying with friends. But that behavior could have been connected to Abdulazeez's drug abuse, the person said.

Abdulazeez moreover was heavily in debt because he could not hold down a steady job & talked with his family approximately declaring bankruptcy, the person said.

Court records point to a volatile family life. His mother filed for divorce in 2009 & accused her husband of sexually assaulting her & abusing their children. She after agreed to reconcile.

Recently, Abdulazeez had begun working the night shift at a manufacturing plant & was taking medication to assist with problems sleeping in the daytime, the person said, & he had a prescription for muscle relaxants because of a back problem.

Abdulazeez was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence April 20. He told a Chattanooga police officer he was with friends who had been smoking marijuana. The report said Abdulazeez, who had white powder on his nose when he was stopped, told the officer he moreover had sniffed powdered caffeine.

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The arrest was "important" because Abdulazeez was deeply embarrassed & seemed to sink further into depression following the episode, the person said. Some close relatives learned of the charge only days before the shooting.

The family believes his personal struggles could be at the heart of last week's killings, the person close to them said.


Laub reported from Amman, Jordan. Associated Press writers Jay Reeves & Michael Biesecker in Chattanooga; Eric Tucker in Washington; & Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that the attorney's name is Abed al-Kader Ahmad al-Khateeb, not Abdel Qader al-Khatib. The uncle's name is Asaad Ibrahim Asaad Haj Ali, not Asaad Ibrahim Abdulazeez Haj Ali.

Muhammad Youssef AbdulazeezJordan

Source: “Associated Press”

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