Vice President Joe Biden called the 24-year-old Muslim man who killed five U.S. servicemen in Chattanooga last month a “perverted jihadist” Saturday, parting ways with others in the Obama administration who have avoided calling the shooter an Islamic extremist.
“These perverse ideologues, warped theocrats, they may be able to inspire a single lone wolf to commit a savage act, but they can never, never threaten who we are,” Biden said at the memorial service for the five military members. “When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded.”
Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed four U.S. Marines and a sailor in the July 16 attack on a military server center. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga with a history of drug use, Abdulazeez spent time in Jordan last year with an uncle. Days before the attack, he wrote two religious posts on his personal blog.
Despite that evidence suggesting that Abdulazeez was acting on radical Islamic beliefs, U.S. officials have so far said that they don’t know what motivated him.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated that uncertainty at Saturday’s memorial service in a speech just before Biden’s.
He said that it may never been known “what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology” motivated Abdulazeez to act.
With his remarks, Biden also parted ways with President Obama, who has taken great care during his presidency to avoid attributing an Islam-based motive to terrorists. He has been heavily criticized for refusing to call groups like ISIS “Islamic extremists.”
Biden has described other Muslim terrorists as “jihadists” before. At a memorial service following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, Biden called the Tsarnaev brothers “two twisted, perverted, cowardly knock-off jihadists.”