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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Sgt. Held in Attack Had Been Reprimanded
Sgt. Asan Akbar, Detained in Attack on Fellow Troops in Kuwait, Had Been Reprimanded Recently

The Associated Press


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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. March 24

When Sgt. Asan Akbar was taken into custody on suspicion of killing a fellow serviceman with a grenade, an Army spokesman said he may have acted out of resentment. But where such bitterness may have come from remains a mystery.

Akbar had reportedly told his mother he feared persecution because he is a Muslim and been reprimanded recently for insubordination. The deadly attack at a Kuwait base also wounded 15 other soldiers Sunday, three seriously.

The woman who said she is Akbar's mother, Quran Bilal, told The Tennessean of Nashville that she was concerned her son might have been accused because he is a Muslim. She said he was not allowed to participate in the first Gulf War because of his religion.

"He said, `Mama, when I get over there I have the feeling they are going to arrest me just because of the name that I have carried,'" Bilal told the newspaper for a story published on its Web site Sunday night.

Akbar, of the 101st Airborne Division's 326th Engineer Battalion, was in custody, said George Heath, a civilian spokesman at Fort Campbell. Heath said Akbar had not been charged with a crime but was the only person being questioned in the attack.

Jim Lacey, a correspondent for Time magazine, told CNN that military criminal investigators said Akbar was recently reprimanded for insubordination and was told he would not join his unit's push into Iraq.

Heath also said Akbar had been having "an attitude problem."

The motive in the attack "most likely was resentment," said Max Blumenfeld, another U.S. Army spokesman.

The Los Angeles Times reported in Monday's newspaper that soldiers after the attack said they overheard Akbar declare: "You guys are coming into our countries and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."

Akbar's family moved last summer from Moreno Valley, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, neighbors said. Jim Gordon, who has rented a home across the street for five years, said he didn't know the family well but that police often came to the house. He said the residents played loud music and had occasional domestic disputes.

"I was surprised when I found out he was from right here," Gordon said. He described the family as "nice people" who "had the normal problems."

"The kids didn't live at home. They were in and out," he said.

Akbar was born Mark Fidel Kools. His mother said she changed his name to Hasan Akbar after she remarried when he was a young boy. Public records found by The Associated Press showed listings for Hasan Akbar under the name Kools as well.

One address for Mark Fidel Kools in Los Angeles is the Bilal Islamic Center, a collection of small buildings and mobile homes around a mosque that's under construction.

Abdul Karim Hasan, the center's imam, or religious leader, told The Tennessean that Hasan was known as a "quiet, mild-type person."

"He was never in trouble," he said. "He was always standing on the outside of any kind of tussles between kids."

Bilal said from her Baton Rouge, La., home that the military had not contacted her and expressed disbelief in the accusations against her son, who she said spells his first name Hasan.

"He wouldn't try to take nobody's life," she said. "He's not like that. He said the only thing he was going out there to do was blow up the bridges."

A message left by The Associated Press at a listing for Bilal was not immediately returned Sunday.

The Army identified the dead soldier as Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa. Heath said Seifert was married. A spokesman for Seifert's mother and father Thomas and Helen Seifert, also of Easton said the family would not immediately speak with reporters.

"We do want to honor Chris. We have suffered a loss in our family. We are grieving right now," said spokesman Mark Drill.

The attack happened in the command center of the 101st Division's 1st Brigade at Camp Pennsylvania at 1:30 a.m. Sunday (5:30 p.m. EST Saturday).

One grenade went off in the command tent, Blumenfeld said. The tent, the tactical operations center, runs 24 hours a day and would always be staffed by officers and senior enlisted personnel.

Names of the wounded were not released. But a newspaper photo of the 1st Brigade's commander, Col. Frederick Hodges, showed him with blood on his uniform and his arm in a sling.

The FBI combed Akbar's apartment complex in Clarksville, Tenn., early Sunday, looking for clues, The Leaf-Chronicle newspaper in Clarksville reported.

Kools came to the University of California, Davis, in 1988, school spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said. He was a double major in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, and graduated with a bachelor's degree as Hasan Karim Akbar nine years later, apparently because "he stopped and started several times" with his classes, Lapin said.

Heath said Akbar should eventually come back to Fort Campbell, though military officials could decide to convene a court martial board in Kuwait. He said he was not sure what kind of penalty Akbar could face if convicted.

"I don't think that the military has executed but one person, maybe two, and they may have two in jail with the death penalty, and appeals ongoing," Heath said.

The three soldiers with the most significant injuries from the attack were in serious but stable condition Sunday, Heath said.

The 101st Airborne is a rapid deployment group trained to go anywhere in the world within 36 hours. The roughly 22,000 members of the 101st received deployment orders Feb. 6. The last time the entire division was deployed was during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which began after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait.

Most recently, the 101st hunted suspected Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Camp Pennsylvania is a rear base camp of the 101st, near the Iraqi border. Kuwait is the main launching point for the tens of thousands of ground forces including parts of the 101st who have entered Iraq.

On the Net:


photo credit and caption:
Soldiers of 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), mourn the loss of Capt. Christopher Seifert at a memorial ceremony, Monday, March 24, 2003, at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. Seifert was killed when a grenade was thrown into a sleep tent early Sunday morning by a fellow U.S. soldier. The attack left 15 other soldiers wounded. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, Spc. Joshua M. Reisner, pool)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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