Witness: AWOL Soldier Planned Lunchtime Attack On Local Restaurant

(Sketch by Gary Myrick)
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WACO (May 22, 2012)—AWOL Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo planned to detonate a homemade bomb in a Fort Hood area restaurant frequented by soldiers and then to shoot anyone who survived the explosion to "martyr himself" for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, FBI Special Agent C. Michael Owens testified Tuesday.

Owens, who was the first prosecution witness in Abdo’s trial in U.S. District Court in Waco, testified that Abdo told him he planned to target a Chinese restaurant because soldiers like to eat Chinese food.

Owens testified that Abdo planned to fill a pressure cooker with shrapnel and gunpowder and to use a clock as a timer.

Owens said Abdo told him he got instructions on how to build the bomb from a magazine he read online at a public library.

Owens testified Abdo planned to carry out the attack between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. because that’s when married soldiers would be eating.

He testified that Abdo told him he chose to target a restaurant in the Fort Hood area rather than at Fort Bragg, where he was stationed, because he wanted to credit the faith of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who’s awaiting trial for the deadly November 2009 shooting rampage on post.

Owens quoted Abdo as saying of Hasan, "People think he's crazy. But he's not."

He also testified that Abdo told him he planned to offer a ride to and then murder a random soldier, whose death he planned to videotape while reciting the names of Muslims he felt were the U.S. government had wronged, including Hasan.

In opening statements Tuesday morning, prosecutors said Abdo confessed to the plot, which they said was foiled by good police work and a resident’s report of suspicious activity.

Defense attorneys, however, told jurors that prosecutors will have to prove that there was an actual attempt made at an attack and pointed out that Abdo didn’t actually construct a bomb.

Abdo was again wearing a surgical mask Tuesday and at the start of the proceedings, U.S. marshals were again wearing protective goggles, as they were during jury selection on Monday.

But late Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith asked, "Is there any way the federal officers can take off their eyeglasses while they're in the courtroom? They look like members of the brotherhood."

The marshals removed the protective eye wear at the next break.

Abdo has a history of outbursts and assaults against both county and federal law officers and on several occasions he’s accused of biting through his lip and spitting blood at authorities, which is likely why the mask was required.

Abdo is charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, and, two counts of possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.

He was arrested on July 27, 2011, at a hotel in Killeen after a clerk at a local gun store alerted authorities about a man who bought a quantity of gunpowder.

The original indictment alleges that Abdo had shotgun shells and pellets, six containers of smokeless gunpowder, two clocks, two spools of auto wire, an electric drill, two pressure cookers and instructions on how to build a bomb.

Abdo, who's from Garland, joined the Army in March 2009.

He went AWOL on July 4, 2011, on the eve of his first deployment to Afghanistan.

In November 2011 he told a television station in Tennessee he was originally planning an attack on his home base of Fort Campbell, Ky.

He told WSMV-TV in Nashville his target at the base on the Kentucky-Tennessee line was a high-ranking official whom he did not name.

He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's Company E, 1st Brigade Combat Team (Rear Provisional) at the time of his arrest.