Palestinian uncle says Fort Hood suspect loved US

Last Updated: Saturday, November 7, 2009 - 22:30

El-Bireh: A Palestinian uncle of the Fort Hood shooting suspect on Saturday said that his nephew loved America and wanted to serve his country, but his work as a military psychiatrist drove him to tears.
The alleged gunman in Thursday`s shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was wounded and taken into custody after an exchange of gunfire with two police officers. At least 13 people died and more than two dozen were wounded.

His uncle Rafik Hamad, 64, today said that Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was emotionally shaken by his work treating US soldiers returning from war zones. Still, he wanted to serve his country because of the opportunities it had given him as an American, Hamad said.

"I think I saw him with tears in his eyes when he was talking about some of patients, when they came overseas from the battlefield,"` Hamad said, speaking in halting English.

"One has no face, one he have no legs." Hasan struggled to appear calm and unaffected to his patients, his uncle said. He said his nephew told him that he did not expect the work to be as stressful as it was and complained that it was too much to bear.

"He didn`t have enough time to spend with all the patients. ... I think he couldn`t handle it as he wanted to," Hamad said, speaking at his home near the West Bank town of

The Army major was harassed by other soldiers because of his Muslim faith but was not angry, his uncle said. Hasan told his family of one incident in which people threw diapers at his house with the message "this is your head cover" written inside, a reference to the scarves and other head coverings that many Muslims wear.

Someone also vandalised Hasan`s car, drawing a camel on the bodywork and scrawling across it the words "camel jockey" -- a racist epithet toward Arabs, Hamad said.

"He really wasn`t angry; I didn`t see anger. A matter of fact I felt that he feels sympathy for them because they are ignorant and that`s their level of understanding,” he said.

Hamad said he last saw his nephew two years ago while on a visit to the US.

Hasan`s parents died several years ago and he has a brother living in the West Bank town of El-Bireh and another in Virginia. Both siblings are avoiding the media, leaving more distant relatives to speak.

His uncle described Hasan as a conservative Muslim but not an extremist. He said he had few friends but hoped to get married. The family last heard from Hasan about two weeks ago, when he told his 94-year-old maternal grandmother that he did not want to be deployed abroad with the military.

Hamad said he was still in "shock and denial" over the shooting.

"I don`t think he could do that. At the same time, I don`t know how to relay that to the victims and their families," he said. "I feel for them and I wish that (it had) never happened."

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First Published: Saturday, November 7, 2009 - 22:30

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