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U.S. Army Officer Detained After Mass Shooting At Fort Hood


Soldiers at Fort Hood confront the news of the shootings at the base.
(RFE/RL) -- U.S. military officials are trying to piece together what may have pushed an Army psychiatrist, trained to help soldiers, into such a state of distress that he turned on his comrades in a shooting rampage.

Twelve U.S. soldiers and one civilian were killed in chaotic gunfire on the afternoon of November 5 at Fort Hood, Texas -- a sprawling 500-square kilometer military base about 100 kilometers south of Waco, Texas. Twenty-eight people at the base were wounded.

The mass shooting happened at the base's Soldier Readiness Center -- a facility for the medical screening of soldiers who are about to be deployed to combat zones overseas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, or are returning from duties abroad.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan
The man suspected of being the killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was a psychiatrist at Fort Hood. He was unconscious in a hospital on November 6 after being shot four times.

In the chaos after the shootings, authorities thought they had killed Hasan, only to discover later that he had survived.

Lieutenant-General Bob Cone, the base commander at Fort Hood, said that the investigation is continuing, but “preliminary reports indicate there was a single shooter that was shot multiple times at the scene. However, he was not killed as previously reported,” Cone said. “He is currently in custody and in stable condition."

Despite Cone's remarks about a suspected single shooter, authorities say they have not ruled out the possibility that Hasan could have been acting on behalf of some unidentified radical group. But officials would not say whether any they had any evidence to support that theory.

Video footage from a nearby convenience store security camera, made early on November 5 before the shootings, shows Hasan wearing long, white traditional Arab robes -- called dishdashah -- and a white Muslim prayer cap. At the time of the shootings, he was wearing his U.S. army uniform.

Officials also are not ruling out the possibility that some of the casualties may have been victims of gunfire from military personnel who were responding to the initial gunfire.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said the White House is working with the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that Fort Hood is secure. Obama said the full resources of the federal government will be used to help the base and surrounding town.

"It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas,” Obama said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil."

The motive for the shooting wasn't clear. But U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her Hasan was about to be deployed.

Retired Colonel Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told reporters that Hasan was being sent to Afghanistan. Lee said Hasan had hoped Obama would withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and that he frequently got into arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

Suspicious Internet Postings

The 39-year-old Army major began working at Fort Hood in July. For six years before that, he had worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, pursuing a career in psychiatry.

He had started there as an intern and, last year, was working as a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. Hasan received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2001.

But his record at Walter Reed was not sterling. Military officials there say he received a poor performance evaluation. Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time, said Hasan had difficulties as an intern that required counseling and extra supervision.

At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law-enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats -- including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.

Investigators stress that they had not determined for certain whether Hasan was the author of the postings. A formal investigation was not opened before the shooting.

The killing of U.S. soldiers by fellow soldiers is not unheard of. In May 2009, at a counseling center of the U.S. military's Camp Liberty in Baghdad, five U.S. soldiers were gunned down by a fellow soldier.

In April 2005, U.S. Sergeant Hasan Akbar of the 101st Airborne Division was sentenced to death for a grenade attack on fellow U.S. soldiers in Kuwait carried out just as the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was beginning.

Akbar, the first American since the Vietnam era to be prosecuted on charges of murdering a fellow soldier in wartime, was convicted of premeditated murder and attempted murder after he threw grenades into tents and then opened fire on other U.S. soldiers.

In May of this year, two U.S. soldiers were shot dead at an Iraqi military training center south of Mosul by a man wearing an Iraqi army uniform.

Earlier this week, in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, five British soldiers were killed when an Afghan police officer they were training opened fire on them.

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