Army: AWOL Soldier Was Planning Fort Hood Attack

Robert Siegel talks with reporter Matt Largey of member station KUT about the arrest of an AWOL Army private named Naser Jason Abdo for threatening a terrorist attack on Fort Hood in Texas.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: According to the Army and local police, a soldier who had gone AWOL has admitted under questioning that he was planning to attack Fort Hood in Texas. The soldier, 21-year-old Private First Class Naser Abdo, was arrested yesterday at a motel in Killeen, Texas. Police also found a variety of firearms and possible bomb-making components at the motel. Fort Hood is where 13 people were killed in 2009, in a shooting rampage. Reporter Matt Largey, of member station KUT, is covering this story in Killeen. And Matt, the chief of police there held a news conference this afternoon. What did you hear?

MATT LARGEY: Well, he wouldn't say much, citing it being an ongoing investigation. He did say that they were led to Private First Class Abdo after a tip was called in, citing suspicious activity. I actually talked to the gentleman who called in that tip. He's a clerk at a local gun store - in fact, the same gun store where Nidal Hasan bought his guns before his shooting rampage at Fort Hood. The gun store clerk himself is a former police officer, said that some red flags were raised during Private First Class Abdo's visit to the gun store. The police pursued to investigate this, which led them to Abdo at his hotel.

SIEGEL: And the police came away from their interrogation of Pfc. Abdo with the impression that not only did he intend to attack people at Fort Hood, but that it was imminent, that he was about to do so right away?

LARGEY: The police chief said that they would have been having a very different press conference today if the clerk at the gun store had not called in the tip. So it, apparently, seems that police believe that the attack was imminent.

SIEGEL: Now, as I understand it, Private First Class Abdo had sought to avoid deployment to Afghanistan on the grounds that as a Muslim he could not, in good conscience, take part in a war against Muslims, and he was granted conscientious objector status. But he'd also had previous run-ins with the law.

LARGEY: Indeed, he was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and charges were filed against him of possession of obscene material, child pornography charges, according to the police chief here. He was declared AWOL on the Fourth of July, and military authorities have been searching for him ever since.

SIEGEL: Now, you say the key tip came here from a former police officer who works at a gun shop in Killeen, the gun shop where Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who shot people at Fort Hood, bought his weapon. What - do we know what it was about his behavior that tipped off the man who worked at the gun store?

LARGEY: Well, this gentleman said that it would otherwise have been an ordinary interaction. Abdo came into the store, picked up some bullets, asked for a magazine, and picked up six pounds of gunpowder. When he brought it to the counter, the clerk says that he asked him what smokeless powder is, and that's the kind of powder that he had picked up. And the clerk says that this sort of set off a red flag; that, you know, why would you be buying smokeless powder if you don't even know what it is? And so he picked up the phone and called somebody he worked with over here at the local police department, and that led to the arrest.

SIEGEL: What happens now in this case?

LARGEY: Well, we are waiting for Abdo to be brought before a judge. Local police say they expect federal charges to be filed, and that should come in the next day or so.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Matt.

LARGEY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Matt Largey of member station KUT, who's covering that story out of Killeen, Texas.

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