KILLEEN, Texas — An AWOL Muslim soldier who had been granted conscientious objector status earlier this year was arrested and bomb-making materials were found in his motel room near Fort Hood, the same Texas Army post where 13 people were killed in a 2009 shooting rampage blamed on an Army psychiatrist, an FBI spokesman said today.
Killeen police arrested Pfc. Naser Abdo, 21, on Wednesday and agents found firearms and “items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder,” in his motel room, said FBI spokesman Erik Vasys.
A clerk at the gun store where the 2009 Fort Hood shootings suspect bought a pistol used in the attack told The Associated Press on Thursday that he alerted police after a man bought weapons and gunpowder there this week.
Greg Ebert said the man arrived at Guns Galore LLC by taxi Tuesday and bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol, paying about $250. Ebert said he became concerned when the man asked questions indicating he didn’t know much about the items.
“(We) felt uncomfortable with his overall demeanor and the fact he didn’t know what the hell he was buying,” Ebert said. “I thought it prudent to contact the local authorities, which I did.”
Killeen police wouldn’t immediately confirm Abdo was the buyer, but a U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk publicly about the case, confirms Abdo bought weapons at a Killeen gun shop.
Vasys said the FBI planned to charge Abdo with possessing bomb-making components later Thursday, at which time he would be transferred into federal custody. He said there was nothing to indicate Abdo was “working with others.”
Abdo has been absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., since the July 4 weekend.
“I would emphasize that any threat that Abdo posed is now over,” Vasys said. “Suffice it to say we’re looking into all aspects of Mr. Abdo’s life to determine his motivations and intentions.”
The infantry soldier whose hometown the military lists as Garland, Texas, had applied for conscientious objector status last year, saying his religious beliefs would prohibit his service in any war. A military review board recommended this spring that he be separated from the Army.
The discharge was delayed after Abdo was charged with possessing child pornography. An Article 32 military hearing last month recommended Abdo for a court-martial. He has said he thought he was charged with a crime because he was seeking to leave the Army as a conscientious objector.
An Oklahoma attorney who has represented Abdo said Thursday he hasn’t heard from Abdo in weeks and learned of the arrest from a Texas television station.
“I’ve been quite anxious to get in touch with him,” said attorney James Branum.
Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan faces a possible death sentence when he is tried next year on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 rampage at Fort Hood.
The Army post issued a statement seeking to reassure the community after Abdo’s arrest Thursday.
“At this time, there has been no incident at Fort Hood,” the statement said. “We continue our diligence in keeping our force protection at appropriate levels.”
Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka referred all questions to the Pentagon.