Despite the 9/11 catastrophe, the USA’s much-hyped intelligence community yet again failed to head off a preventable disaster. Major Nisal Malik Hassan’s attempts to contact al-Qaeda and radical Muslim clerics were closely monitored, but the decision was taken to watch rather than reel hint in, hoping to land bigger fish.
So the 39-year-old US Army psychiatrist was free to attend his place of work early one afternoon in November 2009, carrying two handguns – a semi-automatic FN pistol and .357 Magnum revolver – plus lots of ammunition. The Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood was busy processing personnel returning from or leaving for overseas tours of duty when Hassan produced the FN pistol and started shooting, discharging over 100 rounds in quick succession.
Moments later 13 people – 12 soldiers and one civilian worker – lay dead or dying, while 30 others had been felled with gunshot injuries. As Hassan chased a wounded soldier out of the building, civilian base police officers arrived. Sergeant Kimberly Munley exchanged shots with Hassan before falling to the ground after being hit three times. Sergeant Mark Todd then took up the fight. Hassan missed him twice before being shot himself. He fell unconscious to the ground with four bullet wounds and was handcuffed by Todd.
After regaining consciousness in hospital, Hassan was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder, leaving investigators to puzzle over his motivation. He was a practicing Muslim of Jordanian origin, who had expressed interest in suicide bombings and had close contact with Anwar al-Awiaki, his imam, at the mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, which was also attended by two 9/11 hijackers. Various theories were advanced to explain the massacre, from Hassan’s reluctance to accept an imminent Afghanistan posting to fury that his superiors refused to prosecute soldiers who had admitted committing atrocities against Muslims in the course of psychiatric sessions.
When: November 5 2009
Where: Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas, USA
Death toll: Unlucky 13 (plus the unborn child of a casualty. Private First Class Francheska Velez, one of three women killed)
You should know: Shortly after the Fort Hood shootings Major Nisal Hassan’s lawyer announced that his client had been paralyzed from the waist down and was unlikely to walk again.