Speculation is rife in the US media about whether Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan’s massacre of 13 servicemen at America’s biggest army base, Fort Hood in Texas Thursday, Nov. 5 was motivated by terrorist ideology.
US officials are tightlipped on the question, saying only the investigation will establish the facts. Witnesses among the two score injured reported that while firing two handguns, he shouted “Alahu Akbar!” before he was felled himself by four bullets. That morning, he went shopping in Muslim dress.
Friday, Nov. 6, US terrorism task force agents interviewed his relatives, searched his home and seized his computer. US president Obama promised updates as the inquiry develops and ordered White House and federal buildings to fly flags at half-staff.
Born in Virginia to Palestinian parents from Jordan, Major Hasan, 39, is a psychiatrist whom the army put through medical training. Before Fort Hood, he was posted for six years at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C. He went on his shooting rampage shortly after being informed he would be deployed in Iraq.
Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque he attended at Silver Spring Md. said the major was a lifelong Muslim. “I got the impression he was a committed soldier,” he said.
On a form filled out by Muslims seeking spouses through the mosque, Hasan listed his nationality as Palestinian although he was born in Virginia.
According to neighbors, Hasan handed round Qurans and his furniture that morning and had taken to wearing “Arab clothing” in recent weeks.
Retired Army Col. Terry Lee, who had worked with the major, told reporters that Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull the army out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Lee said he often got into arguments with soldiers who supported the wars and had tried hard to get his pending deployment cancelled.
The major came to the attention of law enforcement authorities six months ago on suspicion of posting Internet messages equating suicide bombers with soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades. No formal investigation had been opened before the shooting.
President said Thursday night it was hard enough for “our soldiers to die in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, but horrifying for them to come under fire at an army base on American soil.”