Soldiers at Fort Hood who witnessed the shooting that killed 13 and wounded 30 reported Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire inside the Soldier Readiness Center, the commanding officer at the Texas base said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone told NBC’s “Today” show that soldiers heard the suspect shout “Allahu Akbar!” — which translates in Arabic to “God is great!” — before the rampage began at about 1:30 p.m. central time.
However, military officials later Friday morning would not confirm that report, saying only that investigators continue to interview witnesses.
The revelation is part of a profile emerging of the military psychiatrist as investigators also learned more details about his 10-minute shooting rampage, the victims and the heroes.
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Army officials said gunman Maj. Hasan, 39, was not known to be a threat or risk, but his military career and personal life show signs of potential underlying problems and concerns.
While working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before coming to Fort Hood, Maj. Hasan required counseling and extra supervision, Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time, told the Associated Press.
Maj. Hasan, who helped soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, also reportedly was harassed about being a Muslim following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Maj. Hasan was about to be deployed overseas. He reportedly was upset about the assignment to either Iraq of Afghanistan and was opposed the U.S.’s involvement there.
The Soldier Readiness Center is for soldiers about to be deployed or returning to undergo medical screening. Some soldiers nearby were going into a theater for a graduation ceremony.
Maj. Hasan also reportedly came to the attention of law enforcement officials six months ago because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats. However, there are no known records of a formal investigation.
President Obama on Friday ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half staff until Veterans Day, which is Wednesday.
“This is a modest tribute to the men and women who give their lives every day,” he said outside the White House.
FBI and other law enforcement officials are searching Maj. Hasan’s Texas apartment and interviewing former neighbors, including those around Walter Reed, in Washington, D.C.
Patricia Villa, a neighbor in Texas, told AP that Maj. Hasan had cleaned out his apartment days before the shooting.
Maj. Hasan used an semiautomatic weapon and other gun in the attack, shooting at defenseless soldiers who were scrambling under tables and helping their colleagues, before a civilian police officer fired and took him down.
Officials say Maj. Hasan was hit with four bullets and is hospitalized on a ventilator. He, the police officer and the others victims are in stable condition, Col. John Rossi said Friday.
The police officer has been identified as Kimberly Munley. Officials said none of the soldiers had a weapon and the entire incident lasted about 30 minutes.
They are still trying to learn whether any of the victims were shot in the effort to take down Maj. Hasan.
Maj. Hasan worked for six years at Walter Reed before going to Fort Hood in July. He received his medical degree in 2001 from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
Maj. Hasan was born in Arlington, Va., and raised in the southwest region of state. He earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Virginia Tech and completed a residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed in 2007.
Investigators are also trying to learn how Maj. Hasan got the weapons on the base and said some of the victims might have been hit by ricochet fire.
A video obtained by CNN shows Maj. Hasan at a convenience store Thursday morning, before work, dressed in traditional Muslim clothing. The clerk told reporters he typically stops there for coffee and hash browns.
“I was confused and just shocked,” said Spc. Jerry Richard, 27, who works at the Fort Hood readiness center but was not on duty during the shooting. “Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself.”
The names of the victims had not been released as of Friday morning. Survivors are being treated in Texas hospitals.
Some of the victims were taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Texas.
W. Roy Smythe, the hospital’s chief of surgery, said Friday many of the injuries are severe and extensive.
“I hope they all survive, but it’s too early to tell,” he said at a press conference outside the hospital.
The dead will likely be taken to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, for autopsies.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.