Fort Hood shootings: soldier now able to speak, say doctors

Author: By Guy Adams in Los Angeles

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who was shot four times during Thursday’s gun battle,
is now breathing unaided, and is under armed guard at a military hospital in
San Antonio. His condition remains critical but stable.

“He is talking. He is conversing with the medical staff,” said Maria
Gellegos, a spokeswoman at the Brooke Army Medical Centre. She claimed to be “unsure”
whether Hasan has yet been interviewed by officials investigating last
week’s mass shooting.

The Army psychiatrist, a Muslim, is accused of shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
? Arabic for “God is great!” ? before opening fire inside a
crowded building full of troops who were queueing for inoculations and eye
tests prior to being sent on a tour of Afghanistan. He is believed to have
fired off more than 100 rounds before civilian police shot him in the torso. Twenty-nine
people were injured in the attack. Of those, 16 remain in hospital with
gunshot wounds, including seven in intensive care.

Last night a US official said Hasanhad been communicating with a radical American
imam now living in Yemen. Speaking under condition of anonymity, he said
that Hasan had sent electronic communications to Anwar al Awlaki, once a
spiritual leader at a Virginia mosque frequented by Hasan?s family.

Yesterday Mr Awlaki, who writes a blog which has often denounced US policies,
praised Hasan as ?a hero?. In a posting on his website Mr Awlaki said: ?He
is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being
a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.?

Hasan had in recent months made postings on internet sites used by extremists,
but there is no evidence that he discussed any details of the planned
attack, or had any outside help. Investigators say there are no other
suspects, and that they do not believe he was part of any terrorist
conspiracy. Hasan almost certainly now faces prosecution, most likely
through the military courts.

Several former colleagues have reported that Hasan was devoutly religious, and strongly
opposed to the so-called ?War on Terror?. However President Obama
has joined senior military figures in warning the public and soldiers not to
?jump to conclusions? about the attack, or use it as an excuse
to discriminate against the roughly 3,000 practising Muslims who serve in
America?s armed forces.

Hasan’s exact motives remain unclear, although he is thought to have been
anxious to avoid taking in part in what he saw as a war on Islam.

Previous work with troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan had apparently left
him concerned for his safety on what would have been his first overseas
mission.

The two pistols he used, one of them automatic, are widely available in Texas,
which has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the developed world.

A service for the victims of the attack will be held at 1pm today. Barack
Obama and his wife, Michelle, have delayed the start of their 10-day tour of
Asia so they can attend.

Over the weekend, the President faced criticism in some right-wing circles for
not yet having visited Fort Hood. George W Bush, who lives near the scene of
the tragedy, quietly arranged to go on Saturday night, and spent “considerable
time” consoling victims.

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