US President Barack Obama led a poignant memorial service Tuesday for victims of the Fort Hood army base attack, saying “no faith” could justify the “murderous and craven” shootings.
As questions mounted over the accused gunman’s links to militant Islam, Obama consoled grieving relatives before addressing some 15,000 soldiers and their families under a bright Texas sky.
“It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know. No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor.
“And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice, in this world, and the next.”
Obama pays tribute
Obama, dressed in black and accompanied by his wife Michelle, paid tribute to the 12 servicemen and one civilian killed in last week’s atrocity, reading out personal histories of each of the victims.
“Their lifeGÇÖs work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — that is their legacy.”
Behind the podium hung a gigantic Stars and Stripes. A photograph of each victim flanked by a helmet, a rifle and a pair of boots paid sad tribute to the fallen.
Obama sought to ease the nationwide soul-searching, but did not try to elaborate on the possible motives of the suspected gunman, military psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan.
‘This is a time of war’: Obama
“This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. This is a fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.”
Applause as Obama came to the podium belied the somber nature of the event, but showed the importance Americans placed on him making the trip.
Today is “very important, especially with President Obama being here. It shows people around the world that we stick together. He is our commander in chief, it shows the world that he cares for soldiers,” said Jenni Yucub, a civilian from New Jersey who has worked at Fort Hood since 1994.
After pipes and military tunes, Obama and his wife Michelle entered the arena in front of the III Corps headquarters secured by a massive wall of shipping containers.
The service began with the Star-Spangled Banner and the crowd was also addressed by commander Lieutenant General Robert Cone and Army chief General George Casey.
Intrigue over the troubled military psychiatrist Hasan deepened Tuesday after the FBI revealed he had contacts with a firebrand Islamic cleric in Yemen and it emerged he had voiced doubts over the role of US Muslim soldiers.
FBI has Hasan in its sights
The FBI said Hasan, a devout Muslim, came to its attention in 2008 after he communicated with the target of an FBI-led counter-terror investigation.
The bureau said investigators assessed the contacts were “consistent with research being conducted by Major Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
“The JTTF (joint terrorism task force) concluded that Major Hasan was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning,” the FBI said.
The FBI added “the investigation to date indicates that the alleged gunman acted alone and was not part of a broader terrorist plot.”
The Washington Post reported investigators were examining possible links between the army psychiatrist and Anwar al-Aulaqi, who is now in Yemen but was a spiritual leader of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.
Hasan had attended the mosque in 2001.
The imam was said to have met Al-Qaeda associates, including two September 11 hijackers, and is now believed to have become a supporter of the terror network, the paper said, citing a senior US official.
The Post also said Hasan had shocked fellow army medics more than a year ago by saying that Muslim soldiers should be allowed release as conscientious objectors rather than being ordered to go to war against fellow Muslims.
After regaining consciousness, Hasan has been able to talk for the first time since Thursday, but he has declined to discuss the day’s events with investigators.