x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Shooting suspect 'contacted al Qa'eda cleric'

The Army psychiatrist suspected of shooting 13 people in Texas had contact with an Islamist sympathetic to al Qa'eda, US officials say.

WASHINGTON // US intelligence agencies have learned the Army psychiatrist suspected of shooting spree that killed 13 people in Texas last week contacted an Islamist sympathetic to al Qa'eda and that the information was relayed to authorities, US officials said. While the agencies were monitoring contacts by Anwar al-Awlaki, a fiery, anti-American cleric in Yemen who sympathised with al Qa'eda, they came across some communications late last year with the shooting suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, US government officials said.

The 10 to 20 communications between Major Hasan and the cleric continued into 2009 and prompted authorities to look into Major Hasan, the officials said. But they decided the matter did not warrant an investigation. In August 2009, Hasan purchased two firearms that he used to carry out the attack, but the government officials said that US law does not permit them to connect that purchase information with the other intelligence they had.

They said the information was given to federal authorities who determined that Maj Hasan's writings were largely consistent with his academic work, offering no hint that he was planning an attack or was following orders from anyone. "There's no sign at this point that the CIA had collected information relevant to this case and then simply sat on it," a US official said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive and ongoing nature of the investigation.

Authorities have decided to charge Maj Hasan, a US-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, in a military court following Thursday's shooting at the Fort Hood Army post where 30 others were also wounded. * Reuters