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Fort Hood rampage: Shooter acted alone, officials say. But why?

Dozens of investigators at Fort Hood are building a psychological profile of the suspect, Nidal Malik Hasan, as they try to understand the motive. Belligerent fanaticism, deepening anger over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fear about deployment may have played a role.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 8, 2009

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, right, and moderator David Gregory appear on 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, at the NBC studios in Washington.

William B. Plowman/Meet The Press/AP


Fort Hood, Texas

Army investigators have ruled out a terror plot in the gruesome rampage at Fort Hood, saying that Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a veteran psychiatrist, acted alone in the shooting spree last Thursday.

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If a larger plot wasn't being carried out, then what was the motive?

Military officials have not yet declared an intent or motivation. But even though the investigation is still in the early stages, a more focused portrait is emerging of Hasan, who is recovering in a San Antonio hospital. Security and criminal analysts are hinting that belligerent fanaticism, deepening anger over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fear about his own impending deployment to Afghanistan may have played a role in the rampage.

Dozens of investigators are building a psychological profile of Hasan as they try to understand the motive. This profile probably won't be completed until Hasan is able to, and agrees to, talk. (He is now in stable condition, according to a US Army spokesman, and is breathing on his own.)

On Sunday, the US Army's chief of staff cautioned against drawing hasty conclusions about Hasan's faith. Focusing on the Islamic roots of Hasan could "heighten the backlash" against all Muslims in the military, said Gen. George Casey, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Hasan grew up as a US-born son of Palestinian parents. He had sought deeper sanctuary in his Muslim faith since the death of his parents, his cousins have reported. His psychological work with traumatized US soldiers had disturbed him.

Without an immediate family and increasingly disenchanted with the Army, Hasan turned to religion, where he could direct his increasing fear and frustration, says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

"The spark was his personal situation and his psychological distress, but what directed his anger and frustration was ... increasing self-radicalization," Mr. Levin says. "It's important to understand the extent to which the tangled interplay of personal disappointment and ideology can have on someone like Hasan."

After arriving earlier this year at the base city of Killeen, Texas, Hasan asked the local imam about the moral quandary he struggled with – as a Muslim going off to war in an army that is fighting Muslims.

Hasan had complained about being the target of religious and ethnic slurs, his family and colleagues said, but he never made an official complaint with the Army.