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Navy to award Purple Hearts to Chattanooga victims after FBI announces attack ‘inspired’ by terrorists

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Crime scene tape surrounds the Chattanooga Armed Forces Career Center on Friday July 17, 2015.

CHATTANOOGA — The fatal shootings at a Navy reserve facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July were “motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters Wednesday in New York.

Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire on a military recruiting center, then drove seven miles away to a Navy reserve facility, where he shot and killed four U.S. Marines and a sailor.

“There is no doubt that the Chattanooga killer was inspired, motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda,” Comey said, adding it’s difficult to determine which terrorist group may have inspired Abdulazeez.

The FBI has been investigating the shootings as a terrorism case from the outset, Comey said.

His comments mark the first time a U.S. official has provided details outlining why the Chattanooga shootings are thought to be an act of terrorism. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama cited the Chattanooga shootings along with the recent San Bernardino, California, attacks as terrorist incidents but did not elaborate.

“However, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase,” Obama said. “As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less-complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society. It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009, in Chattanooga earlier this year and now in San Bernardino.”

Later in the day, Navy officials said they are going to award the Purple Heart to the four Marines and the sailor who were killed, and a Marine who was injured in the attack. This could not be done until the attack was deemed an act of terrorism.

Those who were killed in the attack include: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Lance Cpt. Squire “Skip” Wells. Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was injured.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.