- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2009

UPDATED:

An Army officer opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas on Thursday, killing 13 and injuring 30, authorities said. The massacre left investigators scrambling to figure out what may have driven a mental health professional to go on such a rampage.

Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the commanding officer at Fort Hood, identified the shooter as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist who had lived in Virginia and Maryland. Gen. Cone had said shortly after the shooting that Maj. Hasan was killed by a police officer at the scene, but late Thursday said that turned out not to be the case.

“Preliminary reports indicate there was a single shooter that was shot multiple times at the scene. However, he was not killed as previously reported,” Gen. Cone said. “He is currently in custody and in stable condition.”

Initial information that a female civilian police officer who had shot Maj. Hasan was also killed similarly turned out not to be the case, Gen. Cone said. That officer also survived the attack, he said.



Gen. Cone said most of those injured and killed were soldiers. He said the seriousness of the injuries varied significantly.

Three other soldiers were detained for questioning but were released without charges, Gen. Cone said.

Gen. Cone would not answer any questions about Maj. Hasan, whose motivation remains unknown.

Maj. Hasan opened fire with two handguns — one a semiautomatic, “which might explain the rate of fire he obtained,” Gen. Cone said.

The killings occurred about 1:30 p.m. Central Time at two nearby “readiness centers,” administrative buildings where soldiers are processed for medical records before going to the front or when returning home from a tour.

On Thursday, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, there was a graduation ceremony scheduled for one of the base’s continuing education programs.

Gen. Cone said the soldiers near the attack reacted quickly, tearing off pieces of clothing to put pressure on the wounds of their injured comrades.

“As horrible as this was, I’m sure this could have been much worse,” he said.

Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, is the largest geographical base for the U.S. military and one of the two largest in terms of population. It is home to roughly 34,000 people on 160,000 acres.

The central Texas facility is host to the US III Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division. The US III Corps routinely fills the operational command structure for Multinational Forces Iraq.

“We expect Fort Hood will continue its missions deployed overseas and at home,” Mr. Garver said.

President Obama called the shooting “horrific.”

“We will make sure that we get answers to every question about this horrible incident,” Mr. Obama said while speaking at a summit of Native American tribes. Both the House and Senate observed moments of silence.

Some details about Maj. Hasan, 39, began to emerge Thursday evening.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, would not identify the shooter as Maj. Hasan during a live interview with Fox News but did say the shooter had told people he was upset about being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. She also said the shooter targeted people he knew.

Maj. Hasan, a psychiatrist, had been stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington before being transferred in July to Fort Hood. The Associated Press, citing an anonymous military official, reported that Maj. Hasan received a poor performance evaluation while at Walter Reed.

The Arlington, Va.-born soldier is single with no children, according to the AP, and is a graduate of Virginia Tech University, where he was a member of the ROTC and earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1997.

He received his medical degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda in 2001. At Walter Reed, he did his internship, residency and a fellowship.

His cousin, Nader Hasan of Falls Church, told Fox News during a telephone interview, that Maj. Hasan was a “good American,” but he was weary of being harassed by other military personnel because he was a Muslim.

The cousin said in a statement issued late Thursday that he and his family are filled with grief for the families of the victims. Twelve people were killed and 31 were wounded in the attack.

He said that Nidal Hasan’s family knows little about what happened, but that they want to send “our most heartfelt sympathies” to the families of the victims. He also says that Hasan was raised in America, and that his family loves and is proud of their country.

The AP, citing law enforcement officials, reported that Maj. Hasan, had come to the attention of authorities six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed suicide bombings and other threats.

One official told the AP late Thursday that federal search warrants were being drawn up to authorize the seizure of Maj. Hasan’s computer.

Retired Army Col. Terry Lee told Fox News that he worked with Maj. Hasan, who had hoped Mr. Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Col. Lee said Maj. Hasan got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars and he had tried hard to prevent his pending deployment.

Although the motive for the attack remains unclear, speculation has ranged from it being the act of a disgruntled soldier lashing out to a coordinated terrorist attack.

Asked whether the shootings were a terrorist act, Gen. Cone said, “I couldn’t rule that out, but … right now the evidence does not suggest that.”

The Council of American Islamic Relations quickly condemned the rampage, calling it a “cowardly attack,” and asked “that the perpetrators be punished to the full extent of the law.”

“No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence,” the group said in a statement. “The attack was particularly heinous in that it targeted the all-volunteer army that protects our nation.

“American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens in offering both prayers for the victims and sincere condolences to the families of those killed or injured.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee, said, “Whether it was directed from a foreign or domestic source it is still an act of terror.”

Eli Lake, Jerry Seper and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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