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The probe into suspected Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan took another turn early Monday, as an official said that investigators were now looking into Hasan's connection with a Virginia mosque visited by two of the 9/11 attackers.
Hasan, a military psychiatrist tasked with counseling US personnel returning from war, is accused of killing 13 soldiers and wounding 29 more in Fort Hood, Texas last Thursday. Survivors said he yelled "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is great") before opening fire.
Since that massacre, military officials are probing Hasan's possible motive. He was reportedly disturbed over an impending deployment to Afghanistan. Hasan, 39, is the only suspect in the shootings, but has not yet been charged.
The British Telegraph first reported the link between Hasan and the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia. The mosque was attended by two hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks and its prayer leader at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, who the Telegraph said was accused of supporting attacks on British troops and backing terrorist organizations.
Al-Awlaki moved to Dar al-Hijrah as imam in January 2001 from the west coast and three months later the September 11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour began attending his services. A third hijacker attended his services in California.
Hasan was praying at Dar al-Hijrah at about the same time and the FBI will now want to investigate whether he met the two terrorists.
[A]uthorities are still scouring "voluminous" hard drives, multiple e-mail accounts and website trails "to see what's out there, and to see what it all means," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. "There's a lot of work being done." ...
The mosque is one of the biggest in the United States, and the official cautioned that thousands of people go there for prayer services and other events.
The Los Angeles Times said that investigators are also looking into whether Hasan had recently been following Anwar al-Awlaki's online sermons. Awlaki, a US citizen, left America in 2002 and is believed to be in Yemen, the Times said.
In a blog on his website a post today attributed to Awlaki read:
Nidal Hassan is 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. ...
The US is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges.
On the Sunday talk shows, an army official warned against jumping to conclusions about Hasan, as one prominent senator said he would probe what the Army knew about the accused shooter before the massacre.
According to the Associated Press, Army Chief of Staff George Casey said investigators needed time to fully probe the attacks. "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," according to the AP.
On Fox New Sunday, Senator Joseph Lieberman said he would launch a probe, the AP reported.
A day earlier, classmates who participated in a 2007-2008 master's program at a military college said they complained to faculty about what they considered to be Hasan's anti-American views, which included his giving a presentation that justified suicide bombing and telling classmates that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.
"If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance," Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday." "He should have been gone."