A U.S. soldier was arrested in possession of bomb-making materials near a Texas military base, raising fears of a possible attack on military personnel.
“Military personnel were a target,” Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin told a press conference in response to a question whether Naser Jason Abdo planned to attack Fort Hood, that was shaken by a shooting rampage in 2009 .
Federal charges are expected to be filed against the soldier in connection with possession of bomb-making material following his arrest in Killeen on Wednesday.
Nasser Jason Abdo, 21, was apprehended by the Killeen Police Department, according to federal investigators, who became involved after his arrest.
FBI’s Special Agent, Erik Vasys said he anticipates Abdo will be charged with possession of bomb-making materials later today, adding that gunpowder was one of the components found in his possession.
Abdo, a practicing Muslim from Texas, however, was wanted on charges of keeping child pornography and was being held for the same offence.
Troy Roland, an Army spokesperson at the Pentagon said Abdo submitted a conscientious objector packet but his discharge request had been put on hold.
An Article 32 hearing was held on June 15 and the investigating officers recommended Abdo face general court-martial.
Roland did not know when the court-martial was scheduled.
A tip from a Killeen gun dealer may have led to Abdo’s arrest. Greg Ebert, a Guns Galore clerk and retired sergeant with the Killeen Police Department, said he reported a suspicious customer to the department on Tuesday evening.
A 21-year-old customer arrived at the shop in a taxi at on Tuesday and purchased an unusually large amount of smokeless gunpowder, Ebert said, which can be used as an explosive.
Ebert said the young man was rude to staff and through a series of questions led them to believe that he was largely unfamiliar with what he was buying.
“He randomly selected six canisters of smokeless powder, a mix of fast and slow,” Ebert said. Combined powders with different burning rates “can be highly volatile,” he said.
In addition to the six pounds of smokeless powder, Ebert said, the customer also purchased three boxes of shotgun shells and an extra magazine for a pistol.
Roland said Abdo is from Garland but was not aware of any ties to Fort Hood. He did not have information regarding previous disciplinary records for Abdo.
In the soldier’s backpack, police also found “Islamic extremist literature,” a .40-calliber pistol and a shopping list of components for a bomb, a law enforcement official said.
Authorities are still investigating the case. At this point, a law enforcement official told CNN, it’s likely that Abdo acted on his own, and no evidence has turned up that links him to a terrorist group.
A statement on the Fort Hood website acknowledged Abdo’s arrest but said it had no connection to the base.
It said Abdo had been assigned to Company E of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.
“Since he is in the custody of civilian authorities, jurisdiction over any potential new charges is yet to be determined. If returned to military control, he may face additional charges including AWOL,” the statement said.
Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said base officials have no indication that Abdo ever tried to get onto Fort Hood between the time he went AWOL and the time of his arrest.
Abdo, who joined the infantry in 2009, refused to deploy to Afghanistan on religious grounds and had put in the paperwork to be discharged as a conscientious objector.
The Army approved his request, but on May 13, he was charged with possession of child pornography on his computer, according to the statement.
At a June 15 hearing, Abdo was recommended for court-martial. He went AWOL after that.
In an interview last year, Abdo said felt compelled to remain true to his faith.
“We have two things that I believe make us American, and that’s freedom of religion and freedom of choice,” he said.
When he first signed up for the military, Abdo did not think his religion would be an issue. “I was under the impression that I could serve both the U.S. Army and my God simultaneously,” he said.
But as his deployment neared, he began to rethink things and eventually worked up the courage to approach his unit and tell them how he felt.
Maj Nidal Hasan, the prime suspect in the 2009 Fort Hood killings, could face the death penalty. His trial is set to begin on March 5, 2012.