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Early deployment called "trigger point" for Fort Hood attack

Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people and wounding 31 in a November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, is pictured in an undated
Nidal Hasan, charged with killing 13 people and wounding 31 in a November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, is pictured in an undated

By Eric M. Johnson and Lisa Maria Garza

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. soldier who admitted shooting dead 13 people and wounding 31 others at Fort Hood told a military sanity board that receiving orders to deploy to Afghanistan sooner than expected was "the trigger point" that set off his jihad-inspired attack.

Major Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim and U.S. Army psychiatrist, has admitted during his ongoing court-martial proceedings to opening fire at a medical complex at the sprawling military base in Central Texas in 2009, saying he switched sides in what he considered a U.S. war against Islam.

Hasan believed the United States was "going to war to eradicate sharia law" and he was unable to balance being a Muslim with being in the U.S. military, the sanity board report said, so he needed to "help my Muslim brothers overseas."

He saw his options as spreading the word of God, joining the Taliban and "doing something violent," according to a confidential report Hasan provided to Reuters through his former civilian defense attorney, John Galligan.

"The accused reported that getting deployment orders was a 'task from God to speed up his actions.' He acknowledged that his 'oath to God' was overriding his 'oath to America,'" the report said.

"Fighting for God was a noble deed," Hasan told the panel.

Galligan, who had previously released portions of the report to other media, offered two additional pages to Reuters after consulting with Hasan and in response to queries about what provoked Hasan to fire on his fellow soldiers, Galligan said.

Hasan, acting as his own defense attorney, has offered the report to prosecutors, but the judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, blocked it from being handed over and ordered prosecutors to ignore media reports about its contents.

Hasan received deployment orders dated October 29, 2009, saying he was to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, by November 28, 2009, for training after which he would be sent to Afghanistan. He said he expected to be sent to Afghanistan at least one year after his July 2009 transfer to Fort Hood.

"I was shocked ... I wasn't expecting (to deploy) this soon," Hasan told the panel, known as sanity board.

More than 70 people have testified so far in the court-martial, which began last week, including several witnesses who quoted Hasan, 42, as screaming "Allahu akbar" ("God is greatest" in Arabic) as he sprayed gunfire with his laser-sighted handgun on unarmed fellow soldiers on November 5, 2009.

Forensic expert witnesses this week chronicled a crime scene littered with shell casings and discarded cartridge magazines and victims' suffering, including Private Francheska Velez, who screamed "my baby! my baby!" in a futile plea to save her unborn child. She died after a bullet pierced her back and heart before resting in her right lung.

Kimberly Munley, a former sergeant with Fort Hood police who had a "violent" and chaotic gun battle with Hasan, testified on Friday both their weapons appeared to jam during the encounter before another officer shot Hasan.

Munley was shot three times and Hasan, who stumbled off, was left paralyzed from the waist down.

Hasan could receive the death penalty if the jury of 13 officers unanimously finds him guilty of premeditated murder. The U.S. military has not executed a service member since 1961.

Hasan, who attends court in a wheelchair, is acting as his own lawyer, though he has rarely cross-examined witnesses or mounted objections. On Friday, he rested his head in his right hand and rubbed his temple, appearing pale and wan in his camouflage military uniform with an American flag patch affixed to his shoulder.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay)

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