Fort Hood suspect, 9/11 hijackers link studied

Lieberman calls for inquiry into extremism cues

During services at Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Memorial Chapel, attendees were asked to pray for the slain and the alleged gunman. During services at Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Memorial Chapel, attendees were asked to pray for the slain and the alleged gunman. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
By Allen G. Breed
Associated Press / November 9, 2009

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FORT HOOD, Texas - Federal investigators are looking into links between the Fort Hood shooting suspect and a radical imam who preached at a Virginia mosque attended by two Sept. 11 hijackers in 2001.

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut yesterday called for an investigation into whether the Army missed signs that the accused killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had embraced an increasingly extremist view of Islamic ideology.

Whether Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, associated with the hijackers is something the FBI will probably look into, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Hasan’s family held his mother’s funeral at the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., on May 31, 2001, when Anwar Aulaqi was an imam, or spiritual leader of the mosque.

Aulaqi told the FBI in 2001 that, before he moved to Virginia in early 2001, he met with 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi several times in San Diego. Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, attended the Virginia mosque in early April 2001.

Aulaqi, a native-born US citizen, left the United States in 2002, eventually traveling to Yemen. He was investigated by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 after it was learned that he may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Osama bin Laden. The FBI also learned that Aulaqi knew people involved in raising money for Hamas, a Palestinian group on the US terrorist list.

Classmates participating in a 2007-2008 master’s program at a military college complained to superiors about what they considered Hasan’s anti-American views. Dr. Val Finnell said Hasan gave a presentation at the Uniformed Services University that justified suicide bombing and told classmates that Islamic law trumped the US Constitution.

Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wants Congress to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack.

“If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the US Army has to have zero tolerance,’’ Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on “Fox News Sunday.’’ “He should have been gone.’’

Authorities continue to refer to Hasan, 39, as the only suspect in the shootings that killed 13 and wounded 29, but they won’t say when charges would be filed. They have not revealed a possible motive. Hasan, who was shot by civilian police to end the rampage, was in critical but stable condition at an Army hospital in San Antonio.

He was breathing on his own after being taken off a ventilator on Saturday, but officials won’t say whether Hasan can communicate. Sixteen victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and seven were in intensive care.

Army Chief of Staff George Casey warned against reaching premature conclusions about the suspected shooter’s motives. “I think the speculation [on Hasan’s Islamic roots] could potentially heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,’’ he said on ABC’s “This Week.’’

A government official speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case said an initial review of Hasan’s computer use has found no evidence of links to terrorist groups or anyone who might have helped plan or push him toward the attack.

The review of Hasan’s computer is continuing, the official said.

Hasan likely would face military justice rather than federal criminal charges if investigators determine the violence was the work of just one person.

Across Fort Hood and in neighboring Killeen, soldiers, their relatives and members of the community struggled over the weekend to make sense of the shootings. Candles burned Saturday night outside the apartment complex where Hasan lived. Small white crosses, one for each of the dead, dotted a lawn at a Killeen church yesterday.

Colonel John Rossi, a Fort Hood spokesman, said the country’s largest military installation was moving forward with its usual business. The processing center where Hasan allegedly opened fire on Thursday remains a crime scene, but the activities that went on there were moved.

Fort Hood is “continuing to prepare for the mission at hand,’’ Rossi said. “There’s a lot of routine activity still happening.’’

At the post’s main church yesterday, Colonel Frank Jackson, the garrison chaplain, asked mourners to pray for Hasan and his family “as they find themselves in a position that no person ever desires to be - to try and explain the unexplainable.’’

“Lord, all those around us search for motive, search for meaning, search for something, someone to blame. That is so frustrating,’’ Jackson told a group of about 120 people gathered at 1st Cavalry Memorial Chapel. “Today, we pause to hear from you. So Lord, as we pray together, we focus on things we know.’’

Worshipers at the chapel hugged each other and raised their hands in prayer during the service, in which Jackson asked the congregation to pray for the dead and wounded, as well as Hasan and his family.