An uncle of the man who killed four Marines and a sailor in Tennessee has been in custody in Jordan since a day after last week’s attacks, a lawyer told The Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday.
The lawyer, Abed al-Kader Ahmad al-Khateeb, told the news agency 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, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez.
A Jordanian official said Tuesday that he is sure the uncle and “other relevant people” in Jordan were being questioned, but he would not elaborate and or confirm that the uncle was detained. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.
The report of the uncle’s arrest comes a few days after the FBI said on Friday it would investigate Abdulazeez’s visit to Jordan in 2014, and whether he left Jordan to visit other countries before coming home.
Investigators had earlier indicated they don’t have “anything that directly ties” Abdulazeez to any foreign terrorist organizations, but experts have said his behavior fits the mold of attacks Islamic State (ISIS) has called for.
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 they considered to be a bad influence, a person close to his family told AP.
An FBI spokesman has declined to comment on that information.
Abdulazeez reportedly stayed with the uncle in Jordan, but only to help him with his small cellphone business, the attorney said. Neither Abdulazeez nor his uncle was religious or belonged to any sort of political organization, al-Khateeb said.
“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 told AP. “He cares about his work and his family, and Muhammad is just his relative, the son of his sister. That’s it.”
On Monday, two American officials said that Abdulazeez was in Qatar at least once during his 2014 trip to the Middle East, but the reasons for the stopover were still unknown.
More details emerged on Monday about Abdulazeez’s possible frame of mind leading up to the attacks. He had drug abuse problems and was worried about debt, according to his family and a diary he left behind, ABC News reported, citing a family representative.
A close friend of Abdulazeez said on the weekend that Abdulazeez texted him a link to an Islamic verse hours before the attack, including the line: “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”
The shooter was also allegedly upset about the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the civil war in Syria.