Fort Hood shooting investigation bringing unwanted attention to Texas mosque
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
KILLEEN, TEX. -- FBI agents in blue gloves recently converged on a single-story brick mosque on the rural outskirts of town here and pillaged through the giant green trash bin outside in search of evidence. Texas Rangers and news reporters have been an almost constant neighborhood presence, questioning the Muslim families who live on streets with names such as Hamza Circle and Omar Drive.
The Fort Hood shootings have brought unwelcome attention to the band of a few dozen Muslim worshipers, many with military connections, who prayed alongside the suspect, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, at the only mosque in this central Texas Army town. With the law enforcement and media scrutiny, some regulars at the Islamic Center of Greater Killeen have not been seen, including an 18-year-old who dined frequently with Hasan and promoted jihadist views on the Internet.
As the inquiry continues into the Nov. 5 massacre on the nation's largest military installation, in which 13 people were killed and at least 38 others injured, the FBI's quest for clues has led to this mosque where Hasan prayed regularly in the four months since his July transfer from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
The investigation extends beyond Texas, with FBI agents also questioning leaders of Dar al-Hijrah, a Falls Church mosque that Hasan and his family once attended and where Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical Yemeni American cleric, was preaching earlier this decade. Investigators are assessing the religious practices and behavior of Hasan, who has been charged in the killings, to determine whether they could be the work of a radical jihadist with terrorist sympathies or simply a lonely Army psychiatrist.
"It's tremendous pressure," Killeen mosque leader Osman Danquah said. "We are in a state of mourning for what has transpired, and at the same time you have the media swarming down and the FBI swarming down."
Mosque president Manzoor Farooqi condemned the shootings as a "shameless attack" and said he is cooperating with federal investigators. Farooqi, a pediatrician, said that Hasan gave no signals to him or other mosque leaders that he was plotting to kill fellow soldiers.
But more than two weeks later, the rampage still haunts area Muslims.
"It goes into your head and it twists you around," said Nabil Sutherland, 68, a retired steelworker who prays at the mosque. "People come here, you think they're peaceful, humble and praise the God. You don't think anybody would have any affiliation with radical extremism. To kill other soldiers and innocent human beings . . . it's beyond comprehension. The Koran doesn't teach that."
Danquah, a retired Army first sergeant who served in the Persian Gulf War, said he has nightmares thinking that a man who prayed beside him up to five times a day is accused of going on such a spree.
"We want to go forward and heal because this wound is too painful and we want to put it behind us," Danquah said following Friday afternoon prayers last week, as he turned to collect money from worshipers to give to families of the victims.
Some attention has centered on Duane Reasoner Jr., 18, who is said to have recently converted to Islam and attended the mosque. In the weeks before the shootings, he frequently was seen dining with Hasan at the Golden Corral buffet restaurant in Killeen.
On personal Web sites, Reasoner displays provocative videos and photographs of Islamic radicals, including Aulaqi. One of Reasoner's sites features a composite image of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden presiding over a burning White House under siege by armed men in Arab dress.