Some commentators on television are expressing amazement that the army major, Nidal Malik Hasan, suspected of murdering 12 and wounding 31 at Fort Hood in Texas today was a doctor of many years standing. It is too early to tell whether this is an act of domestic terrorism but if it is we should not be surprised that the shooter was a doctor.
As I happened to write earlier this week, doctors have a long history of playing keys roles in terrorist movements. Among them, Al-Qaeda’s number 2 and (terror) operations chief, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is a qualified surgeon; Dr. Abd al-Aziz Rantissi the mastermind behind Hamas suicide bombings; and Dr. George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the instigator of many airline hijackings in the late 1960s and 1970s, and responsible for the deaths of dozens of passengers. Scroll down to items 4 (and 3) here for more details of these cases.
There have been many other examples too, including several Palestinian suicide bombers and the British Muslim doctors who carried out an attempted suicide attack at Glasgow airport in Scotland two years ago.