Little evidence of terror plot in US shootings

Junior warden Paul Harris blows out the candles at the base of 13 wooden crosses following a special prayer service for the soldiers killed by a lone gunman at St Christopher Episcopal Church in Killeen, Texas, on Saturday. AP

Rather, they have come to believe that Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused in the shootings, acted out under a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures, according to interviews with federal officials who have been briefed on the inquiry.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Hasan believed he was carrying out an extremist’s suicide mission.

But the investigators, working with behavioural experts, suggested that he might have long suffered from emotional problems that were exacerbated by the tensions of his work with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home with serious psychiatric problems.

They said his counselling activities with the veterans appear to have further fuelled his anger and hardened his increasingly militant views as he was seeming to move towards more extreme religious beliefs — all of which boiled over as he faced being shipped overseas, an assignment he bitterly opposed.

Investigators have gleaned most of their findings from Major Hasan’s computer use and from interviews with his family members, co-workers and neighbours. One significant investigative thrust has involved determining whether Hasan had contact with extremists who preyed on his increasingly angry and outspoken opposition to American policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But so far, investigators have unearthed no evidence that he was directed or steered into violence or ever travelled overseas to meet with extremist groups, as defendants in some recent terrorism cases are accused of doing, the officials said.

The officials emphasised that their findings were preliminary and that the investigation
was fluid. New information could alter their perceptions of Hasan’s motives. But the early conclusions are already influencing the course of the inquiry, including which law enforcement agencies lead it.

“It’s early, but it looks like there are a number of factors going on here,” said a senior government official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the findings do not represent the government’s formal investigative and legal views of the case.

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