Army: Suspect said ‘Allahu Akbar!’ before shooting
Soldiers who witnessed the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead reported that the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — an Arabic phrase for “God is great!” — 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 before the rampage Thursday. Hasan was among 30 people wounded in the shooting spree and remained hospitalized on a ventilator.
All but two of the injured were still hospitalized, and all were in stable condition.
Military officials were trying to piece together what may have pushed Hasan, an Army psychiatrist trained to help soldiers in distress, to turn on his comrades. Cone said the 39-year-old Hasan was not known to be a threat or risk.
“I’m not aware of any problems here,” said Col. Steve Braverman, the Fort Hood hospital commander. “We had no problems with his job performance.”
An imam from a mosque Hasan regularly attended said Hasan, a lifelong Muslim, was a committed soldier, gave no sign of extremist beliefs and regularly wore his uniform at prayers.
The motive for the shooting wasn’t clear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon and had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News said Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.
Braverman said at a news conference early Friday that Hasan was on deployment orders to Afghanistan. A military official later told The Associated Press that Hasan was to be deployed to Iraq. It was not immediately possible to verify the discrepancy.
The military official, who did not have authorization to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said Hasan had indicated he didn’t want to go to Iraq but was willing to serve in Afghanistan.
A neighbor at the apartment building near Fort Hood where Hasan lived said they had recently discussed his impending deployment to Afghanistan.
“He seemed OK with it,” said Edgar Booker, a 58-year-old retired soldier who now works in a cafeteria on the post. “I asked him how he felt about going over there, with their religion and everything, and he said, `It’s going to be interesting.'”
Cone said authorities have not yet been able to talk to Hasan, but interviews with witnesses went through the night.
Terrorism task force agents planned to interview several of Hasan’s relatives Friday, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case.