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Fort Hood, Texas - The US Army psychiatrist who has admitted shooting dead 13 fellow soldiers in 2009 chose one station at a Fort Hood medical facility as his “personal kill zone” because he knew it would be packed with soldiers, a prosecutor said on Thursday in closing arguments of a court-martial.
Major Nidal Hasan, acting as his own defence lawyer, declined to make a closing argument after prosecutors finished making theirs, putting the case in the hands of the jury.
The judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, sent the jury to begin deliberating at 1.56pm Central Time (18h56 GMT).
In their closing statement, prosecutors stressed that Hasan's rampage on November 5, 2009, was premeditated. Hasan could receive the death penalty if all 13 officers on the jury find him guilty of premeditated murder.
“The accused knew what Station 13 was about, he looked at it, saw how it would be packed with soldiers, and made it into his personal kill zone, or kill station,” said Colonel Steve Hendricks, attempting to establish the attack was premeditated.
Hasan has admitted killing 13 people and wounding 31, saying he switched sides in what he considered a US war on Islam. He and opened fire at an area where soldiers were being evaluated before being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, rested his case on Wednesday without calling witnesses and without testifying in his own defence.
His actions were unpredictable throughout two weeks of emotional prosecution testimony from dozens of witnesses and survivors of the worst non-combat attack ever at a US military base.
Amid speculation about the emotional toll on victims who may have had to face cross-examination from him, Hasan spared them from questioning.
Prosecutors told the jury Hasan had two motives for the attack: to avoid being deployed himself, and to carry out “jihad” against US soldiers.
“The accused went out that day with the intent of killing as many soldiers as he could,” Hendricks said. “There was one caveat to that: Anyone else who tried to stop him.”
After Hasan learned he would be deployed at the end of November 2009 to Afghanistan for six months, Hasan gave away his possessions, familiarised himself with the medical building, built up his arsenal and wore his regulation Army uniform even though he was on leave, Hendricks said.
Hasan deliberately carried his medical records into the building so as not to call attention to himself and packed his cargo pockets with paper towels to keep the extra rounds from jingling, Hendricks said.
He asked a civilian woman to leave the area before yelling “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest in Arabic) and opening fire, Hendricks said.
Shot by police upon his arrest, Hasan, 42, is paralysed from the waist down and attends court in a wheelchair.
During a hearing over jury instructions on Wednesday, Hasan told military judge Colonel Tara Osborn the attack was motivated by “an illegal war” and that he had “adequate provocation” to launch the attack on soldiers readying to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The shootings came at a time of heightened tensions over the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which strained relations between the United States and countries with predominantly Muslim populations. - Reuters