Lawyer: Tennessee shooter's uncle detained in Jordan

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Uncle of Chattanooga Shooter Detained In Jordan


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

Abed al-Kader Ahmad al-Khateeb told The Associated Press that he was barred from seeing his client and that family members were also prevented from visiting the detainee. Computers and cellphones were taken from the man's home, but 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.

A Jordanian government official said Tuesday that some of Abdulazeez's relatives in Jordan were being questioned as part of an investigation into his stay in the kingdom. He would not elaborate on the probe.

The official said he was sure the uncle and "other relevant people" are being questioned, but that he did not know whether he was in detention. The official 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 help him get away from drugs, alcohol and a group of friends his relatives considered a bad influence, according to a person close to his family. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern it would have business repercussions.

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 also 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, but only to help him with his business, the attorney said. Neither Abdulazeez nor his uncle was religious or a member of any sort of organization or political party, al-Khateeb said. He said Haj Ali had a small cellphone business but did not have further details about the nature of the business or his nephew's role in it.

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Lawyer: Tennessee shooter's uncle detained in Jordan
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Evidence markers sit on the ground at the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office shows a man identified as Mohammad Youssduf Adbulazeer after being detained for a driving offense. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity identified the gunman in shootings at two Chattanooga military facilities as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shares the same age and address as the man in the photo. (Hamilton County Sheriffs Office via AP)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: An angel statue sits in a makeshift memorial near the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Zach, Zoe and Melissa Cates add to a makeshift memorial near the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: A makeshift memorial is sits outside of the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke (R) speaks as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (L) and Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher (2nd L) listen during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher (R) speaks as Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke (L), Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (2nd L) listen during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Bullet holes are seen in the glass of a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
An investigator searches under a vehicle parked outside an Armed Forces Career Center,Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. A gunman opened fire outside the building Thursday morning. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
In this frame from video, law enforcement officers surround a house in Hixson, Tenn., Thursday, July 16, 2015. A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at two sites a few miles apart in Chattanooga, killing several, officials said. The attacker was also killed. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
The windows of the Armed Forces Recruitment Center have several bullet holes from a shooting as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
US President Barack Obama (L) speaks during a meeting with FBI Director James Comey (R) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 16, 2015, on the shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. US President Barack Obama said the 'heartbreaking' shootings in Chattanooga that killed four Marines appeared to be the work of a lone gunman. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer investigates outside the Armed Forces Career Center after a gunman opened fire on the building Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Authorities say there were multiple casualties including the gunman. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Map locates two shooting sites. (via AP)
Police officers enter the Armed Forces Career Center through a bullet-riddled door after a gunman opened fire on the building Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Authorities say there were multiple casualties including the gunman. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Clendenen guards the top of the C.B. Robinson Bridge at Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015.Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/ChattanoogaTimes Free Press via AP)
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP) 
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP)
A highway patrolman stands guard atop the C.B. Robinson Bridge as police and emergency vehicles crowd Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Police and emergency vehicles block Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Reserve Recruitment personnel stand outside a Navy recruiting building as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Chattanooga police talk to Reserve Recruitment Center personnel at the Lee Hwy office as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) 
Store employees look out their door next to the Reserve Recruitment Center as the area is cordoned off after a shooting on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/ChattanoogaTimes Free Press via AP)
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP) 
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"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 about his work and his family, and Muhammad is just his relative, the son of his sister. That's it."

Al-Khateeb is a prominent attorney and member of the Freedom Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and largest opposition group in Jordan. The Brotherhood is part of a regional movement of the same name. In Jordan, it is committed to non-violence and for some years participated in elections. The Brotherhood has distanced itself from the Islamic State extremist group.

In the U.S., authorities are struggling to understand Abdulazeez's motive. Investigators have described their search through the remnants of his life as a domestic terrorism investigation, but nothing about his comings and goings had caught their attention before the rampage Thursday morning.

A U.S. official familiar with the investigation said investigators have found writings from Abdulazeez that reference Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in September 2011 and who American officials believe played an important role in encouraging and inspiring attacks on the homeland. The official was not authorized to discuss by name an ongoing investigation and 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.

Adding to the muddled picture, many who knew him have described a clean-cut high school wrestler who graduated from college with an engineering degree and 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 and saw him at the mosque two or three nights before the attacks.

But the person close to the family talked about a darker side of Abdulazeez. He was first treated by a child psychiatrist for depression when he was 12 or 13 years old. Several years ago, relatives tried to have him admitted to an in-patient program for drug and alcohol abuse, but a health insurer refused to approve the expense.

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

A year after graduating from college with an engineering degree, Abdulazeez lost a job at a nuclear power plant in Ohio in May 2013 because of what a federal official described as a failed drug test.

Recently, Abdulazeez had begun working the night shift at a manufacturing plant and was taking medication to help with problems sleeping in the daytime, the person said, and 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 also had sniffed powdered caffeine.

The arrest was "important" because Abdulazeez was deeply embarrassed and 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.
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