WACO, Texas (AP) — An AWOL soldier convicted of collecting bomb-making materials for what he told authorities would be a "massive attack" on a Texas restaurant full of Fort Hood troops was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, a Muslim, was planning a religious mission to win "justice" for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recorded jail conservation with his mother played for jurors at trial.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith allowed Abdo to represent himself at the sentencing after the 22-year-old told him last month that he and his attorneys weren't communicating effectively.
A federal jury convicted Abdo in May on six charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when arrested with bomb-making materials last summer at a Fort Hood-area motel.
He also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
In a recorded police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack "because I don't appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan." His plan, according to what he told authorities, was to place a bomb in a busy restaurant filled with soldiers, wait outside and shoot anyone who survived — and become a martyr after police killed him.
According to testimony, Abdo told an investigator he didn't plan an attack inside Fort Hood because he didn't believe he would be able to get past security at the gates.
Abdo grew up in the Dallas suburb of Garland and at age 17 decided to follow Islam. He enlisted in the military in 2009, thinking that the service wouldn't conflict with his religious beliefs.
But according to an essay that was part of his conscientious objector status application filed in June 2010, Abdo reconsidered as he explored Islam further.
Abdo said in his discharge request that other soldiers harassed him about his religion during basic and advanced training. As he neared deployment, he said he studied Islam more closely to learn "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."
Abdo's unit was deployed to Afghanistan without him. He said he would refuse to go even if it resulted in a military charge against him.
His conscientious objector status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography in May 2011. Two months later, during the Fourth of July weekend, Abdo went AWOL from the Kentucky Army post.
In the essay included in the conscientious objector status application, Abdo described the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage that left 13 dead and dozens wounded as "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam."
Maj. Nidal Hasan faces the death penalty in the shootings at the Army post if convicted. His court-martial is set for later this month at Fort Hood.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.
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