Fort Hood masked terror-plot soldier in court
A soldier accused of planning to bomb American troops stationed at Fort Hood in Texas wore a mask in court for the first time as jury selection began in his trial.
Private Naser Jason Abdo has been accused of biting through his lip and spitting blood on a deputy US marshal and a sheriff's deputy who were escorting him after a court hearing last month.
Officials reported a previous blood-spitting incident on a jailer.
Abdo, 22, wore an oval mask over his nose and mouth today, while several US marshals standing near him wore protective glasses.
McLennan County sheriff Larry Lynch said he could not comment on why Abdo was wearing a mask.
Abdo, a Muslim soldier who was absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is accused of planning to bomb a Killeen restaurant filled with Fort Hood soldiers and shoot any survivors last summer.
Jury selection started yesterday at his federal trial in Waco, about 50 miles north east of Killeen, the city just outside Fort Hood.
Abdo faces a sentence up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, the most serious of the six charges on which he is being tried.
He is not being tried in military court. His lawyers are not seeking an insanity defence.
Killeen police began investigating Abdo after an employee from Guns Galore called last July saying a young man bought six pounds of smokeless gunpowder, shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol while seeming to know little about his purchases.
Officers also learned that he bought a US Army uniform and a "Smith" name patch from another store, but did not know his unit.
After officers tracked Abdo to a motel near one of the army post's gates, they detained him. Authorities who searched his backpack and motel room say they found a handgun, ingredients for an explosive device and an article titled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom".
An article with that title appears in an al Qaida magazine.
He can be heard telling a detective in a patrol car recording, played at a court hearing last month: "I was planning an attack here in the Fort Hood community because I don't appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan."
Abdo told authorities he planned to make two bombs and detonate them in a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers, according to documents in the case.
While jailed in Waco, Abdo told a TV station that he originally planned to kidnap and videotape the "execution" of a high-ranking Fort Campbell official "who participated in the Afghan mission" - but fled after military police learned he was visiting nearby gun stores.
He fled the Kentucky army post over the July 4 holiday weekend, about two months after he was charged with possessing child pornography, which put his conscientious objector status on hold.
Abdo, who was born in Texas and grew up in a Dallas suburb, became a Muslim when he was 17.
He enlisted in the army in 2009, thinking that the service would not conflict with his religious beliefs. But according to his essay that was part of his conscientious objector status application, Abdo reconsidered as he explored Islam further.
In that essay, Abdo said acts like the 2009 Fort Hood shootings "run counter to what I believe in as a Muslim" and were "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam".
After his first court appearance last July, Abdo shouted: "Nidal Hasan Fort Hood 2009!"
It was an apparent homage to Major Nidal Hasan, a US army psychiatrist charged in that shooting rampage that killed 13 and wounded more than two dozen.
Hasan's military trial is to start in August at the Texas army post.