Chattanooga Mosque Where Gunman Worshiped Mourns Marines

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — In the past two or three months, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, the man accused of killing four Marines here Thursday, had begun showing up fairly regularly at Friday Prayer at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, a large mosque and cultural center, said Dr. Azhar S. Sheikh, a founding member of the center’s board.

Dr. Sheikh, a practitioner of internal medicine originally from Pakistan, said he knew the family of Mr. Abdulazeez, 24, calling them “very upstanding people.” He said they had regularly worshiped at the three-year-old center on the east side of Chattanooga, near a number of suburban-style commercial developments and neighborhoods, and at an older mosque before that one.

He said that he thought the young man, who also died Thursday, had stopped attending services because he had moved away from the area, and assumed that Mr. Abdulazeez was attending again because he was back in town and staying with his parents. He said Mr. Abdulazeez had shown no signs of extremism.

On Thursday night, the mosque was in mourning for the Marines Mr. Abdulazeez is accused of killing. To honor them, Dr. Sheikh said, the center had canceled the Eid al-Fitr celebration planned for Friday, signifying the end of Ramadan. About 1,000 people normally attend.

But Dr. Sheikh, interviewed in the center’s near-empty parking lot Thursday night, said it would have been wrong to celebrate this year. “We have canceled out of respect and remembrance for our fallen Marines,” he said.

Dr. Sheikh said he had “minimal interactions” with Mr. Abdulazeez upon his return, and “didn’t notice anything different in his demeanor.” He said that the center’s leaders had met with F.B.I. officials and offered their “full support” to the investigation.

The mosque and center, he said, normally draw about 200 or 300 people for Friday Prayer, and serve a diverse community with roots in Pakistan, Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States.

The bellicose interpretations of jihad, he said, were not preached at the mosque, and he said that parents were sensitive to the way that the Islamic State and other radical groups had used the Internet to entice and recruit young American and European Muslims to violent causes.

“We certainly do not want to be part of that demented ideology,” he said. “That is not the message we preach here. What people do on the Internet or the World Wide Web or in their own homes, we can’t control that.”