- London Telegraph -
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a devout Muslim who was trying to buy his way out of the Army, was suspected of being the author of postings which compared suicide bombers to heroic soldiers who throw themselves onto grenades to save others.
It also emerged that Hasan, 39, had described the US Army as "the aggressor" in Iraq and Afghanistan and was resisting a planned deployment to Afghanistan, raising questions over whether the military missed warning signs which might have prevented the massacre.
Witnesses said Hasan shouted "Allahu akbar", Arabic for God is great, as he opened fire – a phrase commonly used by Islamic militant suicide bombers – though investigators said there was no evidence he had been recruited by al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist organisations.
Hasan – who was initially thought to have been killed – is being kept alive on a ventilator after being shot four times by a civilian policewoman who was the first officer on the scene of the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Officer Kimberley Munley, whose actions were described as "amazing and aggressive", is one of 30 survivors who were shot by Hasan, of whom 28 remain in hospital.
Six months ago the FBI was alerted to postings by a blogger called Nidal Hasan on the Scribd website. The author wrote about a US soldier who had died smothering a grenade blast, saying: "Scholars have paralled (sic) this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers.
"If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory."
Law enforcement sources said that before the shooting no formal investigation had been launched into the internet postings and Hasan had not been confirmed as the author, but his apartment in Killeen, Texas, has now been searched and his computer seized.
"This is going to be a long and convoluted and messy investigation," the source said.
The gunman, a psychiatrist at the Darnall Army Medical Center on the base, whose job is to help soldiers deal with combat stress, was said by his family to be "mortified" at the prospect of being sent to Afghanistan, which they said would have been his "worst nightmare".
A neighbour who lived in the same apartment block as Hasan said he had told her he was due to leave for Afghanistan yesterday, just 24 hours after the shooting.
Patricia Villa said Hasan had given her frozen food, T-shirts, shelves, an air mattress, briefcases and a new copy of the Koran, and offered her $60 to clean his flat after he left. Investigators have not given details of whether Hasan had been due to leave so soon, or whether he was putting his affairs in order knowing he was about to go on the rampage.
Hasan, who prayed every day at his local mosque, had begun Thursday, as he did every day, by visiting a 7-eleven convenience store on the base to buy groceries. A CCTV image from the store showed him at 6.20am local time wearing a long white dishdasha and skull cap, the traditional Arab dress he often wore when off-duty.
"He looked normal," said the owner of the store. "He came in and bought coffee and hash browns."
Around 300 soldiers had assembled at the Soldier Readiness Center on the base, where they were to have inoculations before being sent to Afghanistan, when Hasan, dressed in his military uniform, entered at 1.30pm and opened fire at close range with two privately-owned handguns.
None of the soldiers were armed and some barricaded themselves into rooms off the main hall of the building while Hasan repeatedly reloaded his weapons and fired indiscriminately for 10 minutes, killing 12 soldiers and a civilian.
Survivors described how Hasan had "a very calm and measured approach" as he fired scores of rounds. Lt Gen Bob Cone, the base commander, said one soldier had told him "I made the mistake of moving and I was shot again". Others "would scramble to the ground and help each other out", he added.
Officer Munley and a colleague were on the scene three minutes after the first shots were fired, but it took several more minutes before they could stop Hasan as he carried on firing.
Once the gunman had been brought down, soldiers rushed to treat their comrades by ripping up their uniforms into makeshift bandages.
The dead included Private Michael Pearson, 21, from Chicago. His mother Sheryll said: "His father is still in shock and very angry. We're all very angry."
Captain Reis Ritz, 30, a physician working in the emergency room at Fort Hood when the dead and dying came in, said: "It was just unreal. When I heard there was a shooting I thought initially it might be a drill. But when I saw the wounds and the number coming in I realised what was happening.
"There were gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomens. They seemed like random shots all over the place. Some of the guys were unconscious, others were talking when they came in but we had to put them under," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"I was trying to resuscitate people, clearing airways, replacing blood, inserting chest tubes. It was frantic, chaotic but controlled. We are a close community and we wanted to do our best for these guys."
Nadar Hasan, a cousin of the gunman, said: "We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Fort Hood today. We send the families of the victims our most heartfelt sympathies. We are filled with grief for the families of today's victims. Our family loves America. We are proud of our country, and saddened by today's tragedy. The actions of our cousin are despicable and deplorable."
President Obama met FBI director Robert Mueller to discuss the investigation but said the motive was still uncertain.
"We don't know all the answers yet and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," said Mr Obama, who ordered flags to fly at half-mast on federal buildings across the country.