A U.S. Army private was arrested Wednesday in possession of explosive material which officials fear may have been part of a plan to launch another attack on the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.
The serviceman, identified by the FBI as Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo, 21, was taken into custody by the Killeen Police Department near Fort Hood after the owners of a local ammunition store, Guns Galore, alerted the police to Abdo's "suspicious" behavior in the store.
Abdo reportedly told law enforcement that the goal of his planned attack was to "get even."
"I would classify it as a terror plot," Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin told reporters in an afternoon briefing.
After only one year in the army, Abdo reportedly realized he could not kill fellow Muslims and applied for conscientious objector status, preventing deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
"A Muslim is not allowed to participate in an Islamicly unjust war," he said in an interview with ABC News last August. In a separate statement he said that he did not "believe I can involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims. I don't believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of a Muslim…"
Similar sentiments were expressed by Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood in November 2009. Hasan had told classmates that he considered himself to be "a Muslim first and an American second" and he was found to have had email interaction with American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
Awlaki hailed Hasan after the shooting, calling him "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."
One report indicates Abdo hoped to follow-up Hasan's attack by bombing a restaurant off the base that was popular with personnel stationed there.
Abdo was based at Fort Campbell, Ky. with the 101st Airborne Division. In June, 2010, after only one year in the army, Abdo applied for conscientious objector status on religious grounds before his first deployment to Afghanistan. Though initially denied by his superiors at Ft. Campbell, the objector status was ultimately granted to Abdo in June by the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Army review board. But that was put on hold soon after when he was charged with possession of child pornography and he went AWOL on July 4th weekend.
Naser Abdo's booking mug shot from Killeen, Tex. police.
"It has been nearly 10 months since the investigation started," he said in a June 23 Islampolicy article, "and I am only now being charged with child pornography when my C.O. claim is approved. I think that all sounds pretty fishy."
The army's decision to grant conscientious objector status was blasted by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). In a statement, the group called Abdo a traitor with an interpretation of Islam that "is dangerous and part of radical Islam globally."
"Abdo's obsession with Islamophobia is the same logic that drove the murderous rampage of Maj Nidal Hasan on Nov. 5, 2009 at Fort Hood," AIFD President and Navy veteran Zuhdi Jasser said in the statement. "Abdo's adherence to the global Islamist ideology above his American loyalty runs to the core of what we Muslims need to fight in real counterterrorism."
According to the congressman whose district includes Fort Hood, Abdo told FBI agents that he was "planning an attack on Fort Hood."
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, credited "quick action by a Texas gun dealer" in helping prevent "a repeat of the tragic 2009 radical Islamic attack on our nation's largest military installation."
The gun dealer, Greg Ebert, told the police that he was "concerned with the quantity of his [Abdo's] request and his general demeanor." Ebert added, "There was clearly something wrong with him."
Abdo allegedly went into the store requesting gunpowder and "reloading options." After asking about 40-caliber ammunition, he bought three boxes of 12-gauge ammunition and a magazine for a pistol. Abdo paid in cash and then left in a cab.
FBI agents searching his hotel room later reportedly found gunpowder, shotgun shells, a pressure cooker, 18 pounds of sugar and ammunition. FBI Special Agent Eric Vasys said that Abdo "had some components which could be considered bomb-making materials." Abdo also purchased an Army uniform with Fort Hood patches from a local surplus store.
CNN reports that "Islamic extremist literature" was found in his backpack