By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - Talking with his mother during a jailhouse visit, an Army private explained that he was seeking justice when he allegedly plotted to kill soldiers in Killeen last summer.
Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo told his mother, Carlisa Morlan, that the U.S. government had wronged Muslims, and the tens of thousands who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan were like his family.
"What would you do if something came to your door and raped and murdered your children," said Abdo, who is Muslim, during the conversation with his mother. "They (the U.S. government) did it for 10 years. ... It's not vengeance, it's justice."
Federal prosecutors played the taped conversation between mother and son Wednesday in the third day of Abdo's trial. The jail visitation was recorded about a week after the soldier's July 27 arrest.
Abdo, 22, who went AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., last July, is facing felony weapons and attempted murder charges for an alleged plot to commit mass murder at a Killeen restaurant. If convicted, he could receive life in prison.
In the taped visit, Morlan appeared in disbelief of her son's statements. At times during their conversation she told Abdo she thought he had lost his mind. She asked if news reports of his alleged attempt to build a homemade bomb were true.
"It's all true," said Abdo on the tape. "It's all true Mom."
Authorities found Abdo in possession of what has been called bomb-making materials when they arrested him at a hotel on Fort Hood Street. Witness testimony Wednesday revealed that police eventually seized more than 70 items from Abdo's hotel room and backpack.
While none of the seized items by themselves represented a complete explosive, testified Sgt. 1st Class Brad Grimes with Fort Hood's Explosive Ordnance Disposal, he said he could assemble a working shrapnel bomb from the materials in about 30 minutes.
Testimony showed that Abdo appeared to be in the initial stage of constructing a bomb. He had cut open shotgun shells to use the pellet shot as shrapnel; some was placed inside a 16-quart pressure cooker.
Abdo's defense attorney Zachary Boyd continued to ask witnesses whether those alleged components were illegal to purchase. He also asked if at the time of Abdo's arrest, there was a working bomb present. All witnesses answered no.
But authorities believe Abdo was a danger when they arrested him. They treated the backpack he wore as if it had an active explosive in it.
Fort Hood's bomb squad came to the scene and used a robot to move the backpack and eventually empty its contents.
Inside Abdo's backpack, authorities found a notebook. It contained a bomb recipe published in an al-Qaida publication that called for several items found in Abdo's hotel room, according to testimony.
Investigators also found a handwritten list of alleged and confirmed terrorists. Among them were Osama bin Laden; Hasan Karim Akbar, an American soldier who killed two officers in Iraq with a grenade in 2003; and accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan.
During a taped phone call from jail, Abdo told a Nashville reporter that his actions were connected to Hasan's alleged shooting rampage on Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood. He said both were mistreated by the Army.
"Suicide is despair, but martyrdom is freedom," he said. "This was to remind the people of Nidal Hasan, what drove him."
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Wednesday's prosecution witnesses
Cameron Chesser, employee at Lowe's in Killeen
Greg Ebert, Guns Galore clerk, retired Killeen police officer
Sgt. Eric Bradley, Killeen police organized crime unit
Sgt. 1st Class Brad Grimes, Fort Hood explosive ordnance disposal
Jason Cromartie, FBI special agent
Erich Smith, FBI physical scientist
Ronald Stamper, Fort Hood chief of force protection
Lt. Anthony McRae, McLennan County Jail
Lt. Karen Anderson, McLennan County Jail
Richard Stiker, explosives expert