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Suspect in Fort Hood shooting, a Muslim, asked Army to discharge him, aunt said

Members and leaders of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, where Maj. Nidal M. Hasan used to pray, speak out the day after the tragedy. They describe him as a devout Muslim, quiet but friendly.

The Associated Press reported that Hasan attracted the attention of law enforcement authorities in recent months after an Internet posting under the screen name "NidalHasan" compared Islamic suicide bombers to Japanese kamikaze pilots. "To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate," the posting read. "It's more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause."

In a statement issued late Thursday, Hasan's family said they were "shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Fort Hood" and "filled with grief for the families" of victims.

"Our family loves America," said the statement. Noting that Nidal Hasan was an American citizen, the family said: "We are proud of our country, and saddened by today's tragedy. Because this situation is still unfolding, we have nothing else that we are able to share with you at this time.

This morning, TV news trucks and reporters swarmed the Muslim Community Center, where Hasan had attended for many years before transferring to Texas. The mosque's leaders spoke throughout the day, trying to explain the mosque's stance for peace and distancing themselves from the shooter.

"He was a face in the crowd, one of literally a thousand people who came here for prayers," said Arshad Qureshi, chairman of the board of trustees.

While Hasan could be reserved, those who were close to him said he often reached out in unexpected ways, offering one man a ride to the airport and donating money.

Mosque member Juliana Roberson, 46, said he helped buy food for the youth program's weekly meetings, Roberson said.

"This is devastating because they know him personally," she said. "The kids looked up to him."

Hasan stood out at the Center because he would sometimes show up in Army fatigues, said Faizul Khan, the former imam there. He remembered that Hasan was eager to settle down but wanted to marry a woman who was very devout. In his search of a partner in marriage, Hasan wrote in an application filed with a local Muslim matching service that "I am quiet and reserved until more familiar with person. Funny, caring and personable."

"He talked about being 39-years of age, and how much he wanted to have a family, a wife soon," Khan said. "He came to mosque one or two times to see if there were any suitable girls to marry," Khan said. "I don't think he ever had a match, because he had too many conditions. He wanted a girl who was very religious, prays five times a day."

Ezeddine Benyedder, 51, of Silver Spring was one of the few people at Muslim Community Center who considered himself a friend of Hasan's. They first met about eight years ago and saw each other during daily prayers.

"He was a good friend," he said. "Believe me, he was my role model when it came to the Islam life. He was so devout."

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