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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.

Malik Hasan spent most of his life in Virginia, moving to the Roanoke area in the mid-1980s. He became a successful restaurateur in Vinton, a small railroad town of about 7,800 just east of Roanoke. His businesses included the Capitol, a well-known, blue-collar beer hall on Market Street, the Mount Olive Grill and Bar and the Community Grocery on Elm Avenue. The Hasans lived in a quiet neighborhood of brick ramblers on Ramada Road. Many in the Roanoke Valley who knew Nidal Hasan said their lasting impression was that he was highly intelligent, and somewhat introverted. Thomas O. Sitz, an associate professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech, where Hasan graduated in 1995, said he was "one of our better students," if not a memorable one.

Mark Owczarski, a spokesman for the university, confirmed the FBI has contacted campus officials and they are cooperating.

Charles Garlick, who lived across the street from the Hasan family in Vinton, described Nidal Hasan as quiet and reserved. "Every time I'd see him, he'd have a book bag over his shoulder," Garlick said. Nidal Hasan's younger brother Eyad -- nicknamed "Eddie" -- played football with Garlick's son, Zachary. Nidal attended Arlington's Wakefield High School but later transferred to William Fleming High School after his family's move to Roanoke. He graduated in 1988. Hasan's mother, Hanan, who went by "Nora," was known as the "keeper of the peace" at the Hasan family's restaurants. She suffered from kidney problems and died in 2001 at age 49, neighbors said. Malik Hasan died in 1998, at age 52, after suffering a heart attack at his home. The couple is buried in Falls Church.

The Hasan family was large and had deep roots in Roanoke Valley, said Amer Azibidi, minister and imam of the KUFA Center of Islamic Knowledge. At Mount Olive, Malik worked with his brother, Jose. The pair cooked many of the dishes, including lamb kebabs and stuffed grape leaves. But the premature deaths of Malik and Nora Hasan had left the family scattered.

Nidal Hasan enlisted in the Army after high school over his parents' objections, Noel Hasan said. He was a student at Barstow Community College in California and Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke before enrolling at Virginia Tech, Tech officials said. He began his studies at Tech in the summer of 1992, eventually majoring in biochemistry with minors in biology and chemistry. He graduated with honors, officials at the university said, but was not a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets or any ROTC program at Tech.

Hasan was "like my sons," his aunt said, spending holidays and free time at her house.

When Army officials called Eyad Hasan to relay the news from Fort Hood on Thursday, Noel Hasan said, the brother "fainted when he heard it." Initially, she said, Eyad was told his brother was injured and in surgery and later was erroneously told he had died.

Hasan is an avid Redskins fan. "That was his main entertainment," his aunt said.

Noel Hasan was unaware of her nephew's pending deployment. "He didn't call or send an e-mail saying anything like that," she said.

His last e-mail to her, she said, was a little more than a week ago "and it was just, "Hi, Aunt Noel. How are you doing?' " On Thursday evening as he was getting into bed, Benyedder received a phone call telling him that his friend had been involved in something. He turned on the television to see Hasan's face on every channel.

"I just cried," Benyedder said. "I was in tears. I couldn't understand. I don't know the words. This is not the person I knew."

Kravitz reported from Roanoke.

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