US officer goes on killing spree at army base

Twelve shot dead and dozens injured at Fort Hood, Texas, after major opens fire

Accustomed to terrible human loss overseas, the United States Army was last night struggling to come to terms with a savage outbreak of violence at home after an officer opened fire on the sprawling Fort Hood military base in Texas, which is at the tip of the spear of regular US troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After hours of confusion when the entire complex – the largest such base in the world – located between Waco and Austin, was on a security lockdown, a military spokesman confirmed that the rampage had ended with the deaths of 12 people and the wounding of 31 others. Most of the injured had been rushed to hospitals across central Texas. The shock that was rippling across the country last night was hardly relieved after the shooter was identified as a trusted officer with medical duties. Officials said that Major Nadal Malik Hasan, a licensed doctor and psychiatrist, was shot and wounded by military police at the scene but not before he had extinguished the lives of 12 people. Military sources added that two other soldiers were apprehended after the slaughter, though by dusk last night one had been released. There was no information on what role the second may have had in the killings if any. Hasan opened fire, they said, with two handguns. There was no reason he should have been bearing arms as a doctor.

Major Hasan, said to be 39 years old, allegedly opened fire at roughly 1.30 pm, Texas time, inside a personnel processing building formally known as the Soldier Rating and Processing Center. It is a building soldiers routinely pass through while getting ready to deploy. However, at least one of the victims, was identified as a civilian.

A motive for the shooting was hard to pin down last night. However, there were reports that Hasan, who was trained also in psychiatry and medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, was preparing for deployment to Iraq and was not happy to be going there. He had previously worked at the Walter Reed veterans hospital outside Washington.

There have been six incidents on the ground in Iraq since the start of the conflict when US troops have been felled by one of their own with the loss of 14 lives. Last May, a soldier opened fire on fellow soldiers in a medical facility at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad killing five.

Lt General Bob Cone spoke to reporters on the perimeter of the base. "We have had a terrible tragedy at Fort Hood today. The situation is ongoing but we are very close to a resolution," he said, almost three hours after the first shots were fired.

"The numbers that we are looking at are 12 dead and 31 wounded." The wounded were being treated in hospitals across central Texas, he said.

The shooting will rekindle debate about the strains that have been placed for years on the US military community after eight years of conflict in Afghanistan and almost as many years in Iraq. For months, military leaders have been seeking ways to monitor the mental health of soldiers precisely to guard against such deadly tragedies. Fort Hood is home to a programme set up to help returning soldiers cope with stress incurred by warfare.

In Washington aides kept President Barack Obama abreast of developments at the huge complex that includes housing areas and several schools. Mr Obama called the shootings "horrifying". Attending a conference on Native American rights, he added: "My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of those who have fallen... we will make sure we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident".

For soldiers who are trained to face possible injury or worse while deployed abroad, there was no emotional preparation for the shock of such an indiscriminate act of mass killing taking place on US soil and indeed within the confines of one of their own bases where they would have considered themselves entirely safe.

"I am horrified just like everyone else," Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a US Senator for Texas, said of the killings. "This is a base that has sent people time and time again to Iraq and now to Afghanistan. They have borne a lot of the responsibility for the war on terror and for this to happen at this particular base is heartbreaking."

As many as 500 military personnel were mobilised at one stage to conduct a sweep of the base to ensure its security. Witnesses on the edge of the facility meanwhile saw ambulances coming and going from the main entrance and helicopters landing inside it to ferry the severely wounded to nearby hospitals.

Members of families were also assembled on parking lots on the edge of the base trying to determine whether any of their loved ones may have been hurt or killed in the shootings.

Fort Hood has close to 50,000 soldiers assigned to it. In addition, it is home to many military families. As well as sending solders into harm's way in war zones – no other military base in the US has lost more men and women in Iraq than Fort Hood – it has seen many wounded soldiers returning from war.

Fort Hood: The world's largest military base

* Fort Hood, near Austin, Texas, is the world's largest military installation, occupying 340 square kilometres.

* It is home to more than 65,000 soldiers, civilian personnel and family members.

* Two armoured divisions are based there, and up to 40,000 US troops.

* It was opened in 1942, as a place to test anti-tank guns that were crucial to combating German blitzkrieg tactics.

* 75 troops at the base have committed suicide between the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and July this year – more than at any other army post.

* The base is home to III Corps, the official counteroffensive force, who are known as "America's Hammer."

* In January 2003, then President George W Bush addressed 4,500 troops at the base, and told them to be ready for war.

* The base's Fourth Infantry Division captured Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?