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FBI: Chattanooga shootings "inspired by terrorist organization propaganda"

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FBI Director James Comey FBI Director James Comey
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

In a Wednesday news conference, FBI Director James Comey told reporters that the July 16 attacks in Chattanooga were "inspired by terrorist organization propaganda."

"It's often difficult to untangle which particular source — there is competing foreign terrorist poison out there," Comey said. "To my mind there is no doubt the Chattanooga shooter was inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda. We've investigated it from the beginning as a foreign terrorist case."

The revelation comes after repeated criticism about the categorization of such mass shootings. 

The FBI quickly ruled that the San Bernadino attacks as terrorism some two days after the mass shooting. 

Chattanooga's attacks were not ruled as a terrorist act, meaning the Fallen Five were not eligible to be honored with the Purple Heart.

That honor would have a significant impact on the surviving families since there are additional survivors benefits.

In a news conference the afternoon of the shooting, former U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said his department was investigating the July 16 Chattanooga attacks as an act of terrorism. 

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann introduced a resolution in July, shortly after the shootings, to award the Purple Heart to the five servicemen.

The five members of the U.S. military slain July 16 were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40; Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist; Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, 21; and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26.

The gunman, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, was killed in the resulting shootout with Chattanooga police. 

Comey also said that San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik did not post jihadist messages on Facebook before she came to the United States.

Instead, he said, the couple were communicating with each other in "direct, private messages."

"We have found no evidence of a posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom," he said, calling reports to the contrary "a garble."

His comments were intended to resolve confusion over whether Malik had posted extremist messages on a public-facing account that officials could have seen when she applied for a visa.

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