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Fort Hood gunman told mental health panel he wanted martyrdom: report

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 killing 13 fellow soldiers in a 2009 shooting rampage at a Texas army base told a mental health panel he wished to die while carrying out "jihad" because it would signal God had designated him as a religious martyr.

The New York Times on Tuesday published an account of parts of the panel's January 2011 report on Major Nidal Hasan, a 42-year-old U.S.-born Muslim whose court-martial began at Fort Hood, Texas on August 6.

The newspaper also published an image online of the official report. Some pages of the report were released by Hasan's former civilian lawyer, John Galligan, the newspaper said.

The panel, known as a sanity board, was assembled to assess whether former Army psychiatrist Hasan was fit to stand trial. The panel found him fit, and he faces 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 charges of attempted murder for the 31 people he wounded plus one he shot at and missed. Contents of the report have not been heard by the jury of military officers and were not expected to be introduced at trial.

Hasan told the court last week that he switched sides in what he called a U.S. war on Islam, telling the jury, "I am the shooter." He has not contested the testimony of more than 60 witnesses who described the November 5, 2009 shootings, the worst non-combat attack on a U.S. military base.

The court-martial resumed on Tuesday with expert witnesses testifying about the crime scene. Investigators recovered 146 shell casings and six magazines, FBI Special Agent Susan Martin testified.

Hasan attends court in a wheelchair after being paralyzed from the waist down in a shootout with military police who ended his rampage. Many of the witness have said they at first believed the shooting was a training exercise because policy prohibits soldiers from carrying weapons on base.

He could face the death penalty by lethal injection if he is convicted.

"I'm paraplegic and could be in jail for the rest of my life," Hasan told the panel of military mental health experts.

"However, if I died by lethal injection I would still be a martyr," Hasan said.

He also denied having remorse and considered his injuries a "badge of honor," according to the report.

The terse, unapologetic statements help explain tension between Hasan, who is defending himself, and a team of standby lawyers assisting him who have sought to take a lesser role because they say Hasan is actively seeking the death penalty.

The standby lawyers say their code of ethics prevents them from assisting. Hasan has disputed the assertion he is seeking the death penalty for himself, and military judge Colonel Tara Osborn has denied the lawyers' request to reduce their role.

The mental health report said Hasan wore earplugs to muffle his semi-automatic handgun blasts and chose areas at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center that had the "greatest density" of uniformed military personnel.

On the day of the shootings, he attended morning prayers at a mosque in nearby Killeen, Texas, then stopped at a convenience store for coffee and hash browns, the report said.

He later went home, collecting two guns and 20 to 30 magazines, and returned to the mosque for noon prayers, which he knew would be his last before "either going to jail or dying," the report said.

He attempted to justify the shootings by saying the soldiers he killed were "going against the Islamic Empire."

Declaring himself on a mission, Hasan told the panel, "I shot to kill."

"I got the job done, but I knew I was going to be stopped because I had a lot of ammunition. I wanted to take out as many as I could before I got stopped," Hasan told the panel, according to the report.

Hasan also denied that depression or anxiety contributed to his motive.

"I don't think what I did was wrong because it was for the greater cause of helping my Muslim brothers," he told the military panel.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool)

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