Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

US gunman 'faced Afghan posting'

Col Dr Steven Braverman describes Major Nidal Malik Hasan and his work

A US major believed to have killed 13 people in a gun attack at a Texas army base was due to be deployed soon to Afghanistan, a military official said.

Maj Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, a US-born Muslim, opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood on Thursday.

Relatives of the army psychiatrist said he had strongly opposed his deployment and had wanted to leave the army.

US officials said investigations into what prompted the attack had continued through the night.

Early on Friday the commander of the Fort Hood base, Lt Gen Robert Cone, told NBC News that, according to eyewitnesses, the gunman had shouted the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great] before opening fire.

Military officials said 12 soldiers and one civilian had been killed.

US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan
Born in US to Palestinian parents
Joined the army and trained to be a psychiatrist
Treated soldiers returning from combat zones
Described as a devout Muslim
Said to have been unhappy about imminent overseas deployment

Of the 28 people who remained in hospital, 14 had required surgery but all were in a stable condition, Col Dr Steven Braverman said.

Deputy base commander Col John Rossi declined to comment on what might have triggered the attack. "We'll let investigators find that out," he said.

Maj Hasan was shot four times during the attack and is currently being treated in hospital under armed guard.

The policewoman who shot him first - named as Kimberly Munley, 34 - was among those wounded.

President Barack Obama described the shooting as "a horrific outburst of violence".

He said: "It is difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil."

'Could have been worse'

The shooting began at about 1330 (1930 GMT) on Thursday at a personnel and medical centre at Fort Hood - the largest US military base in the world, home to about 40,000 troops.

In an e-mail to the BBC, a US soldier stationed at the base described the venue as a large, open room where hundreds of soldiers were queuing up to get their pre-deployment checklists signed off.

fort hood map
Shooting started at 1330 local time at Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood, the world's largest US military base

Gen Cone said a graduation ceremony for a group of soldiers was taking place nearby.

"Thanks to the quick reaction of several soldiers, they were able to close off the doors to that auditorium where there were some 600 people inside," he said.

"As horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse."

A picture is beginning to emerge of the suspect, a psychiatrist who was transferred to the Texas base in July.

Reports suggested that he had been increasingly unhappy in the military and that his work at his previous post - Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC - had been the subject of concern.

The gunman's cousin Nader Hasan posted a message on the Washington Post website on behalf of the family.

"We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Fort Hood," it said. "We send the families of the victims our most heartfelt sympathies."

The cousin also told US media that Maj Hasan had been opposed to an imminent deployment overseas, describing it as his "worst nightmare".

He said that Maj Hasan had been battling racial harassment because of his "Middle Eastern ethnicity".


Surveillance video showed he was wearing religious attire on the day of the shooting.

A fellow Fort Hood soldier told the BBC that the incident could put pressure on Muslim American soldiers.

"It kind of puts a negative light on them and makes people distrust them because everybody is going to look at them [and think]: 'Well, you're probably going to pull something like this'," the soldier said. "And it's a sad fact that that will happen."

The New York Times said the FBI had been investigating internet postings by a man called Nidal Hasan that appeared to back suicide bombings - but said it was not clear whether it was the suspect.

Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered all flags in the state to fly at half-mast as a tribute to the victims.

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