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Fort Hood shooting: Was Nidal Malik Hasan inspired by militant cleric?

Alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan had ties to US-born militant Moslem cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leading figure seeking to recruit English speakers to violent jihad.

By Staff writer / November 10, 2009

The investigation of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist suspected of murdering 12 soldiers and wounding 30 others in last week's shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, is uncovering evidence of a man deeply interested in the minority branch of Islam that views non-Muslims as dangerous infidels and endorses the use of violence to deter America from its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and from support for Israel.

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Medical colleagues in the Army have told reporters that he gave a presentation in which he warned in graphic detail of the torments waiting for nonbelievers in hell. Army investigators say there is no evidence yet that the actions he's accused of committing were carried out with anyone's assistance, but they have also zeroed in on his apparent email contact with miliant preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico in 1971 and is now believed to be living in his parents' homeland of Yemen.

Mr. Awlaki is a leading light among militant Sunni preachers seeking to reach out to English-speaking Muslims and encourage them to engage in jihad in the West. He's at the forefront of the effort to create more "homegrown" jihadis, whose language skills and passports help them operate in the US and Europe.

Awlaki maintained a website presented in impeccable English until Tuesday, when its contents were deleted. The site had a an "Ask the Sheikh" button in which users could email him with questions. It devoted much of its contents to the glories of jihad. Awlaki even authored a treatise urging Muslims to violence called the "44 Ways to Support Jihad" which begins with a hadith, or story about the life of the Prophet Mohammed, that encapsulates his view of faith and conflict. "The Messenger of Allah says: ‘Whoever dies and has not fought or intended to fight has died on a branch of hypocrisy.' "

Awlaki's writings have been found on the computers of British, US, and Canadian terror suspects in recent years, among them the New Jersey men accused of plotting an attack against Fort Dix in 2007. US court documents have alleged that he used a US-based Islamic charity to send money to Al Qaeda. They also allege that he once asked American-born militant cleric Ali al-Timimi – who is now serving a life sentence for urging followers to fight the US in Afghanistan – to help him recruit fighters here.

On Monday, a post attributed to the preacher praised Hasan as "a hero. 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."

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