From death row, Ft. Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State
The former U.S. Army psychiatrist sentenced to die for the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting that killed 13 and wounded dozens more has released a letter saying he wants to become a citizen of the militant group Islamic State, according to a letter.
Nidal Malik Hasan addressed a handwritten letter to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, requesting citizenship with the group, according to Fox News, which obtained a copy of the letter this week.
“It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier,” Hasan wrote in the letter, verified for the Los Angeles Times by attorney John Galligan on Saturday.
The group that Hasan named in his letter, Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has gained momentum, seizing territory in Iraq and Syria in order to establish a Muslim caliphate governed by fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.
As Islamic State gains prominence in the Middle East, its propaganda efforts have begun to attract recruits from Western nations. The group released a video earlier this month showing members beheading American journalist James Foley, and have been prolific in documenting their victories via video and social media.
Galligan said Hasan directed him to share his letter only with Fox News, as he had other information during his military trial at Ft. Hood a year ago.
“He sent it specifically to them through me,” Galligan said.
Some of those injured in Hasan’s attack expressed outrage at the letter on Saturday.
“What gives him the right to even communicate with these individuals?” retired Army Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford told The Times.
Lunsford, 47, of Lillington, N.C., was shot and wounded in the attack and has repeatedly testified against Hasan, including at the trial last year. He joined other victims and relatives who sued the government in civil court to classify the shooting as an act of terrorism and award them the requisite benefits.
He called Hasan’s letter “further proof that this man was a terrorist.”
“How much more does this administration have to let this man do before they see that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck?” Lunsford said.
Islamic State has gained momentum this summer, seizing territory in Iraq and Syria to establish a religious government, or caliphate. Disciples have documented victories on social media, including the killing of Foley, and won western recruits, including some U.S. fighters, one of whom was killed last week.
President Obama initially dismissed the group as a “junior varsity” version of Al Qaeda, but has since called for a military strategy to deal with them. Earlier this month, after Islamic State pushed into areas of northern Iraq held by Kurdish forces and threatened vulnerable religious minorities, U.S. officials ordered air strikes in the region.
Galligan said Hasan, a major who is imprisoned on military death row at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., did not explain why he sent the letter now, or why he chose Islamic State.
“I’m not surprised. It’s consistent with his position all along,” Galligan said. “Religious fervor underscores much of his life — his actions, his thought process. He really didn’t get into much of that during the trial because it was prohibited.”
Prior to the shooting, Hasan had exchanged emails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born imam who was later killed in an American drone strike in Yemen in 2011. In the Ft. Hood attack, witnesses described Hasan shouting, “Allah Akbar!” or “God is great!”
During his trial, Hasan represented himself, arguing that before the shooting he had switched sides to become a guerrilla fighter defending the Taliban.
On Aug. 23, 2013, a military jury found Hasan guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder, and within a week sentenced him to die. At the time, he was the sixth inmate on military death row.
His attack was followed by a second this year at the sprawling military post in central Texas. Ivan Lopez, 34, a soldier suffering from depression and anxiety denied leave after his mother died, opened fire at the military post April 2, injuring 16, and killed three fellow troops and then himself.
Galligan, who has had sporadic contact with Hasan since he was moved to Ft. Leavenworth, said he is “resigned to his situation and that there’s going to be an appellate process that’s decades long.”
Lunsford said that as Hasan pursues his appeals, he and other victims will continue their court fight to have the shooting classified as terrorism so that they can receive combat recognition and benefits, including medical coverage.
“It won’t be over until everything that was promised to us has been fulfilled and this is recognized as a terrorist act and we are repaid what we’re owed,” he said. “Then it will be over.”
Follow Molly Hennessey-Fiske for national news on Twitter @mollyhf.
Matt Hansen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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