Published January 13, 2015
A sergeant accused of killing a fellow serviceman by throwing grenades into tents at a military command center in Kuwait told his mother he feared persecution because he is a Muslim and reportedly had recently been reprimanded for insubordination.
Sgt. Asan 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 that also wounded 15 other soldiers Sunday, three seriously.
Jim Lacey, a correspondent for Time magazine, said in a television news broadcast 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 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.
A 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, adding 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.
She said in a telephone interview 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 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. However, 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.
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.
The FBI combed Akbar's apartment complex in Clarksville, Tenn., early Sunday, looking for clues, The Leaf-Chronicle newspaper in Clarksville reported.
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. Two members said they did not know Kools under his family name or his Muslim name, Hasan Akbar.
"We have a whole lot of Hasans and Akbars here," said Mohammed Akbar Lee, who identified himself as a security guard at the center.
Mark Fidel 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, including the death penalty.
"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.
Dennis Olgin, 56, a former Army prosecutor who now practices criminal and military law in Louisville, said it's possible Akbar could be charged with intentional murder, one count of attempted murder for everyone that was sleeping in the tent and aggravated assault.
Olgin said the soldier could be charged with treason, but said the murder charge would be easier to prove.
"Life would be the minimum for the murder charge," Olgin said. "Since it was in combat, it's possible that he could get the death penalty. That would be up to a jury and it would have to be unanimous."
The three soldiers with the most significant injuries from the attack were in serious but stable condition Sunday, Heath said.
Heath said the attack obviously weighed heavily on soldiers' minds.
"When somebody's firing at you, you know who the enemy is. When they're standing in the same ... chow line, or using the same shower with you, it's hard to recognize. It's had a detrimental effect, probably, on the morale."
It also frightened loved ones back home.
"I was very scared because I didn't know where my wife was," said Robert Ward, whose wife, Lorna, is a specialist in the 101st Airborne Division. "All I could think of and worry about was I prayed that it wasn't my wife. I just couldn't believe that it was one of ours that actually did it."
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 Qaeda 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.