(AP Photo/Stephen M. Keller )
Reporting from Washington — Federal prosecutors formally charged an AWOL Army soldier with possession of an unregistered destructive device in an alleged plot to set off two bombs at a popular restaurant in Killeen, Texas, that is frequently patronized by soldiers stationed at nearby Ft. Hood.
At a hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Waco, Texas, the 21-year-old Naser Jason Abdo, an Army private and converted Muslim, refused to stand and, as he was being ushered away, yelled out “Nidal Hasan Ft. Hood 2009!” It was a defiant reference to the Army major and psychiatrist who is charged with killing 13 people in a rampage at the base in 2009.
Like Hasan, Abdo was opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because he said they were against his Muslim beliefs. He earlier had been approved as a conscientious objector for discharge from the Army.
According to a federal complaint unveiled at the hearing, authorities said Abdo, who was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky., until he allegedly went AWOL, was found in possession of a 40-caliber handgun, ammunition and bomb-making components. The bomb materials included smokeless gunpowder, shotgun shells and pellets, two clocks, two spools of auto wire, an electric drill and two pressure cookers.
Prosecutors said Abdo also had saved an article titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom.” They said his plan was “to assemble two destructive devices with the intention of detonating them inside an unspecified restaurant frequented by soldiers from Ft. Hood.”
Abdo was arrested Wednesday in a Killeen motel room just three miles from the main gate of Ft. Hood, and is being held in federal custody. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum of $250,000 in fines.
According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent James E. Runkel, Abdo was arrested in Room 230 of the America’s Best Value Inn and Suites in Killeen shortly after visiting a local gun store and inquiring about explosives. An employee of the shop became suspicious because Abdo arrived and left the store by taxi, and did not explain why he needed explosives.
When police arrived at his motel, he “made statements to the arresting officers that he intended to conduct an attack against Killeen and Ft. Hood,” the affidavit said. He also said there were explosives in his backpack and in his room, Runkel said.
The backpack contained the bomb components and the magazine article, the agent said. Also found was a “handwritten list in a composition notebook” that included materials for making a bomb. These materials also included epoxy and glue, tape, gloves, a battery and Christmas lights.
The FBI determined that the components could be “readily assembled” to fashion a bomb.
In interviews with authorities, Runkel said, Abdo “admitted that he planned to assemble two bombs in the hotel room using gun powder and shrapnel packed into pressure cookers to detonate” in an undisclosed restaurant popular with Ft. Hood soldiers.