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Official: Soldier said he wanted to attack Fort Hood troops

By the CNN Wire Staff
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FBI: Bomb supplies found in soldier's room
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "He's a very dangerous individual," police chief says
  • A gun store employee says red flags went up
  • A Defense Department official says the suspect had enough materials for two bombs
  • A lawmaker says another Fort Hood attack was averted

Killeen, Texas (CNN) -- An AWOL Muslim American Army private arrested near Fort Hood has told investigators that he wanted to attack fellow soldiers at the military post, the police chief in Killeen, Texas, said Thursday.

"Military personnel were a target of this suspect," Chief Dennis Baldwin told reporters about Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, who is expected to face federal charges. Baldwin said Abdo, who was arrested Wednesday, had no accomplices, "as far as I know."

He added, "We are not aware of any additional threats to the safety of our community."

FBI agents discovered potential bomb-making materials in Abdo's hotel room, FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said. Abdo, 21, had refused to deploy to Afghanistan and later went AWOL from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, after being charged with possession of child pornography, Vasys said.

After a tip-off on Tuesday from a local gun shop, Killeen police arrested Abdo at a traffic stop, officials said. He was taken into custody without incident and is being held in Killeen City Jail.

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"He's a very dangerous individual and he is where he needs to be," Baldwin said.

Asked how close Abdo may have come to pulling off an attack, Baldwin said, "I can tell you that we would probably be here today giving you a different briefing had he not been stopped."

Fort Hood is the Texas military post where a 2009 shooting spree left 13 people dead. Another Muslim American soldier, Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been charged in those killings.

Killeen is also where, in 1991, George Hennard crashed his pickup into a Luby's cafeteria, fatally shot 23 people and wounded another 20 before killing himself.

"We've been through a lot in this community," Baldwin said. "But I can tell you that's when the character of the community is more obvious."

"Thanks to quick action by a Texas gun dealer in alerting local police to a suspicious character, and a prompt and vigorous response by the Killeen Police Department, we may well have averted a repeat of the tragic 2009 radical Islamic terror attack on our nation's largest military installation," said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, the House Army Caucus chairman.

"We now have an example of what works to prevent these type attacks, and as the coming days reveal more details about this attempt, we can determine better ways to thwart similar efforts in the future," Carter said.

Carter's office said Killeen gun shop Guns Galore, the same store used by Hasan to purchase weapons allegedly used in his attack, tipped off police concerning a "suspicious male" who purchased gunpowder, shotgun ammunition, and a magazine for a semiautomatic handgun.

Greg Ebert, a retired police officer who works at Guns Galore, said a young man showed up in the store Tuesday afternoon and browsed for about 20 minutes. He selected six one-pound canisters of smokeless gunpowder, Ebert said.

Then, Ebert said, the man asked the store owner questions about the nature of smokeless powder.

"That is a red flag for me," Ebert said. "He should know. Why is he buying that much?"

Ebert said the man also picked up one magazine and shotgun shells, and then left in a cab. After discussing the matter at length with the owner, Ebert called police.

The soldier also purchased uniforms with Fort Hood unit patches from a local military surplus store, Carter's office said, citing police.

After Abdo's arrest, police searched his hotel room and backpack and found six pounds of smokeless powder, Christmas lights and battery-operated clocks -- which were apparently intended to create a timing and triggering device -- sugar, shrapnel, a pressure cooker, and shotgun shells that were being dismantled for raw explosives, a Defense Department official told CNN.

The materials were enough to make two bombs, the official said.

In the soldier's backpack, police also found "Islamic extremist literature," a .40-caliber pistol and components that could be used in a bomb, a law enforcement official said.

A statement on the Fort Hood website acknowledged Abdo's arrest but said it had no connection to the post.

It said the private first class 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 officials have received no indication that Abdo 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. The Army approved his request to be discharged as a conscientious objector, but on May 13, he was charged with possession of child pornography on his computer, according to the statement.

After a June 15 hearing, at which Abdo was recommended for court-martial, he went AWOL.

In media interviews last year, Abdo said he 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 signed up for the military, Abdo said he had not thought that his religious beliefs 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, he said.

"Islam is a much more peaceful and tolerant religion than it is an aggressive religion," he said. "I don't believe that Islam allows me to operate in any kind of warfare at all, including the U.S. military and any war it partakes in. I believe that our first duty as a Muslim is to serve God."

After Abdo's arrest, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement calling it "a sobering reminder of the importance of remaining vigilant in the ongoing efforts to protect our communities from those that would do us harm."

Hasan, the prime suspect in the 2009 Fort Hood killings, could face the death penalty. His trial is set to begin March 5, 2012.

CNN's Barbara Starr, Marylynn Ryan and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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