Texas killer reportedly of Palestinian descent

US soldier kills 12 in T

By AP, JPOST.COM STAFF
November 6, 2009 02:15
fort hood 248.88

fort hood 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a US military psychiatrist suspected of going on a shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded 30 in a US army base in Texas, is believed to be of Palestinian origin. A military official told the AP that Hasan's family has Palestinian roots. ABC News reported on Friday that Hasan's grandfather moved to the United States in the 1940s. As if going off to war, prior to the incident Hasan cleaned out his apartment and called another soldier to thank him for his friendship - common courtesies and routines of the departing soldier. Instead, authorities say, he went on the killing spree that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas. Investigators examined Hasan's computer, his home and his garbage Friday to learn what motivated the suspect, who lay in a coma, shot four times in the frantic bloodletting that also wounded 30. Hospital officials said some of the wounded had extremely serious injuries and might not survive. The suspect, 39, emerged as a study in contradictions: a polite man who stewed with discontent, a counselor who needed to be counseled himself, a professional healer now suspected of cutting down the fellow soldiers he was sworn to help. Relatives said he felt harassed because of his Muslim faith but did not embrace extremism. Others were not so sure. A recent classmate said Hasan once gave a jarring presentation to students in which he argued the war on terrorism was a war against Islam, and "made himself a lightning rod for things" when he felt his religious beliefs were challenged. Investigators were trying to piece together how and why Hasan allegedly gunned down his comrades in the worst case of violence on a military base in the US The rampage unfolded at a center where some 300 unarmed soldiers were lined up for vaccines and eye tests. Soldiers who witnessed the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before opening fire, the base commander said Friday. Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said officials had not yet confirmed that the suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, made the comment, which is Arabic for "God is great!" before the rampage Thursday, which left 30 people wounded, including the gunman. Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque Hasan attended in Silver Spring, Maryland, said Hasan, a lifelong Muslim, was a committed soldier, gave no sign of extremist beliefs and regularly wore his uniform at prayers. "I got the impression that he was a committed soldier," Khan said. He spoke often with Hasan about his desire for a wife. On a form filled out by those seeking spouses through a program at the mosque, Hasan listed his birthplace as Arlington, Virginia, but his nationality as Palestinian, Khan said. "I don't know why he listed Palestinian," Khan said, "He was not born in Palestine." Nothing stood out about Hasan as radical or extremist, Khan said. "We hardly ever got to discussing politics," Khan said. "Mostly we were discussing religious matters, nothing too controversial, nothing like an extremist." Hasan was on a ventilator and unconscious in a hospital after being shot four times during the shootings at the Army's sprawling Fort Hood, post officials said. Authorities have not ruled out that Hasan was acting on behalf of some unidentified radical group, a senior US official said. He would not say whether any evidence had come to light to support that theory. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were under investigation. The gunfire broke out on Thursday at around 1:30 pm at the Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening. Officials are not ruling out the possibility that some of the casualties may have been victims of "friendly fire," that in the mayhem and confusion at the shooting scene some of the responding military officials may have shot some of the victims. The motive for the shooting was unclear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon, and had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas. Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News he was being sent to Afghanistan. Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars. For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, in July, the 39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing a career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year, a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2001. But his record was not sterling. At Walter Reed, he received a poor performance evaluation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. And while he was an intern, Hasan had some "difficulties" that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time. At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades. Investigators had not determined for certain whether Hasan was the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case. The FBI, local police and other agencies searched Hasan's apartment Thursday night after evacuating the complex in Killeen, said city spokeswoman Hilary Shine. She referred questions about what was found to the FBI. The FBI in Dallas referred questions to a spokesman who was not immediately available early Friday morning. Meanwhile, Fort Hood base commander praised the soldiers for their quick reaction. "God bless these soldiers," Cone said. "As horrible as this was it could have been worse." Video from the scene showed police patrolling the area with handguns and rifles, ducking behind buildings for cover. Sirens could be heard wailing while a woman's voice on a public-address system urged people to take cover. Schools on the base went into lockdown, and family members trying to find out what was happening inside found cell phone lines jammed or busy. "I was confused and just shocked," said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the center but was not on duty during the shooting. "Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can't even defend yourself." The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Their identities and the identities of the dead were not immediately released. The bodies of the victims would be taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for autopsies and forensic tests, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that were under investigation. There will also be a ceremony at the air base to honor the dead. Jamie and Scotty Casteel stood outside the emergency room at the hospital in Temple waiting for news of their son-in-law Matthew Cooke, who was among the injured. "He's been shot in the abdomen and that's all we know," Jamie Casteel told The Associated Press. She said Cook, from New York state, had been home from Iraq for about a year. Amber Bahr, 19, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition, said her mother, Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wisconsin. "We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly," Pfund said. She couldn't provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel. Ashley Saucedo told WOOD-TV in Michigan that her husband was shot in the arm, but she couldn't discuss specifics. Saucedo said she and the couple's two children weren't permitted to leave their home at Fort Hood during the shootings.


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