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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.

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Awlaki, who may have briefly served as a Muslim chaplain at George Washington University according to his now-defunct website and a 2001 article by National Geographic News, also lashed out at Muslims who condemned the murders, branding them as traitors and hypocrites. "The Muslim organizations in America came out in a pitiful chorus condemning Nidal’s operation. Nidal has killed soldiers who were about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to kill Muslims. The American Muslims who condemned his actions have committed treason against the Muslim Ummah and have fallen into hypocrisy."

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Muslims in Awlaki's school, often referred to as salafis (a term that refers to the early followers of the prophet Mohammed), practice takfir, which brands fellow Muslims they disagree with as apostates deserving death.

ABC News cited unnamed US investigators as saying that the contacts with al-Awlaki were deemed benign and didn't involve direct calls to illegal action. "We don't have any indication that (Hasan) was directed, we don't have any indication that there were co-conspirators but, once again, this is fairly early on in what may be a complex and long-term investigation," a senior investigative official said.

The Sept. 11 Commission report, released in 2004, found that Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar – Saudi Arabians who helped hijack and fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon – had made contact with Awlaki, then prayer leader at the Rabat mosque in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, soon after they moved to San Diego in February 2000. Awlaki, interviewed by the FBI after the attack, said he remembered Hazmi after being shown his picture. But he said he didn't remember what he had discussed with the man.

Awlaki left San Diego later that year and became preacher at Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va., which Major Hasan attended in 2001. Hazmi attended this mosque a few times before carrying out the Sept. 11 attack, a confluence that "may or may not have been coincidental,'' the 9/11 Commission wrote. "We have been unable to learn enough about Aulaqi's (note: the preferred spelling in the 9/11 report) relationship with Hazmi and Mihdhar to reach a conclusion."

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