Daniel Clark, center, hugs his wife Rachel Clark while they wait for the closed base
to re-open so they can get their 5-year-old child that is in day care in Fort Hood, Texas,
after a mass shooting, Thursday.
A complicated picture was emerging Thursday night of both the shootings at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead and 31 wounded, as well as the soldier suspected of carrying them out, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
Officials have so far provided only the most basic of facts. Investigators believe Hasan alone was responsible for the attack, and contrary to earlier reports, Hasan is alive and in the custody of authorities, though he was shot by a female first responder, according to Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the commanding officer at Fort Hood.
Cone adamantly refused to discuss Hasan, other than to say that his death was “not imminent.” But media reports throughout the day offered shreds of information that could illuminate potential motives for the attacks.
Hasan was a US-born Army psychiatrist who had never deployed to a war zone but was due to deploy to Iraq soon. Numerous reports suggest that he repeatedly said he did not want to deploy to Iraq and held strident views about US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The tragedy began to unfold at about 1:30 p.m. local time at Fort Hood, a sprawling base north of Austin. Cone says that only one suspect opened fire at the post’s soldier readiness center, where dozens of American soldiers had gathered for pre-deployment processing.
This contradicted early media reports that as many as three gunman were roaming the post. Cone says three other suspects were also detained and questioned, but all have been released.
Fort Hood was in “lock down” for at least five hours as authorities scoured the base to ensure the safety of the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 residents.
Cone says investigators have not dismissed the possibility that there might have been other accomplices. There are questions about how one person who reportedly had only two handguns could harm so many people. But Cone said the readiness center was crowded, which could account for the high casualty figures. The FBI is on site to investigate, he added.
There is no evidence, however, to suggest the attack was linked to terrorism, he said.
Who is Nidal Malik Hasan?
Seeking to understand why a psychiatrist trained to help soldiers cope with the stress of warfare instead turned on them, news networks patched together fragmentary stories about Hasan throughout the day.
Terry Lee, a retired Army colonel who knew Hasan, told Fox News about a story he heard secondhand. He said a fellow colleague had told him that Hasan had made “outlandish comments” about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and US involvement in them and that “Muslims had a right to rise up and attack Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“[He] made comments about how we shouldn’t be over there – you need to lock it up, Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor,” Lee added.
But the suspect’s cousin, Nader Hasan, gave Fox News a different picture. He said his cousin had never deployed but was affected by the war and had been concerned about his impending deployment.
“He would tell us how he would hear things, horrific things, things from war probably affecting him psychologically,” Nader Hasan said.
Nidal Malik Hasan attended high school in Roanoke, Va., studied biochemistry at Virginia Tech, played sports, didn’t get into any trouble, and appeared to be a normal, well-adjusted individual, the cousin said. He was a psychiatry resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and was apparently working at Fort Hood during the pre-deployment process for soldiers.
The New York Times reports that Hasan felt he was harassed because he was a Muslim. CNN said he was being tracked by the federal government because of inflammatory views about suicide bombings expressed on the Internet.
“It is difficult enough when we lose brave Americans in battles overseas, it is horrifying that they should come under fire on an Army base on American soil,” President Obama in Washington.
Muslim groups fear backlash
When news first broke Thursday that a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, killed and injured U.S. soldiers, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote a statement of condemnation.
He only sent it out later, when reports emerged that the alleged shooter’s name was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.
“As soon as we saw what appeared to be a Muslim name, we issued our statement,” Hooper said. “Until that time, we were praying that no Muslim would be involved.”
That’s the reality of crisis management for the Muslim-American community, said Hooper, who handles communications for the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.
Even without confirmation that the alleged gunman was Muslim — there was no immediate determination of any religious affiliation for Hasan — the mere reporting of a possible Muslim name required an immediate comment, he said.
“That’s unfortunately the world we live in nowadays,” Hooper said. “So often, Muslims are accused of not condemning these kind of acts.”
The CAIR statement said: “No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. 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.”
In a separate statement, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles, California, condemned what it called the “heinous incident.”
“We are in contact with law enforcement and U.S. federal government officials to gain more facts from this tragic incident and work together in dealing with its aftermath,” the group said.
Its statement called on “all members of American Muslim communities to be in contact with local law enforcement for the safety and security of their communities and their institutions.”
The Islamic Information Center also issued a statement “in conjunction with all the major Muslim organizations nationwide” that condemned the attack.
“While several news reports have cited one of the gunmen to be Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, IIC strongly emphasizes that this attack and its perpetrator are in no way representative of the Muslim people or the peace-loving religion of Islam,” the statement said.
“The individuals who perpetrated this attack blatantly acted against the teachings of Islam and humanity,” it added.
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Muslim-Americans reported increased attacks and threats by revenge-minded non-Muslims.
“We’ve seen this before,” Hooper said of a possible backlash. “Whenever there’s an incident of this type, there’s always the possibility this will happen.”
Even non-Muslims could be targeted, he said, noting that Sikhs who wear turbans or Hispanic-Americans can be mistaken as being of Middle Eastern descent.
On Thursday night, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad told a news conference the alleged Fort Hood attacker’s motive remained unknown.
“We urge all Americans to remain calm in reaction to this tragic event and to demonstrate once again what is best about America — our nation’s ability to remain unified even in times of crisis,” Awad said. “We urge national political and religious leaders and media professionals to set a tone of calm and unity.
“Unfortunately, based on past experience, we also urge American Muslims, and those who may be perceived to be Muslim, to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and their religious institutions from possible backlash.”
From The Christian Science Monitor and CNN.
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