Wednesday, June 3, 2009

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) | A Muslim convert who pleaded not guilty to killing a soldier outside a recruiting center had the firepower to take out many more while on a mission to “kill as many people in the Army as he could,” police said.

In documents released Tuesday, authorities said they recovered Molotov cocktails, three guns and ammunition from Abdulhakim Muhammad’s pickup truck after the attack Monday in a suburban Little Rock shopping center that left Pvt. William Long dead and Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula wounded.

Mr. Muhammad targeted soldiers “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past,” authorities said.

Both Pvt. Long, 23, and Pvt. Ezeagwula, 18, had recently completed basic training and had never seen combat. They had volunteered to help attract others into military service, and were shot as they stood outside the recruiting center smoking cigarettes.

On Tuesday, Mr. Muhammad, 23, pleaded not guilty to one count of capital murder and 16 counts of committing a terrorist act.

He could face the death penalty and is being held without bond. Federal prosecutors are also considering charges.

Police stopped Mr. Muhammad moments after the shootings on a highway that would have taken him to Memphis, Tenn., where he lived until he moved to Little Rock in the past couple of months.

Search warrant affidavits showed that police recovered weapons and caches of ammunition from Mr. Muhammad’s truck and apartment. Officers confiscated an SKS assault rifle thought to be used in the shootings, a .22-caliber rifle with a laser sight, other firearms, Molotov cocktails, homemade silencers and CDs with Arabic writing on them.

The truck also held a plastic tub filled with bottles of water, “canned food, boxed food, bagged food and a butane lighter” and, incongruously, a golf score card.

Once in custody, one affidavit said, Mr. Muhammad told officers what he had wanted to accomplish.

“Mr. Muhammad … advised that his intent was to kill as many people in the Army as he could,” said Little Rock Police Detective Robert A. Martin.

During the court proceeding Tuesday, deputy prosecutor Scott Duncan said Mr. Muhammad told investigators that “he would have killed more soldiers had they been in the parking lot.” Mr. Duncan said the suspect admitted shooting the soldiers “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.”

Mr. Muhammad had been under investigation by an FBI-led terrorism task force since he returned to the United States from Yemen last year, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

The official said Mr. Muhammad had been arrested and jailed in Yemen at some point for using a Somali passport. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

An FBI spokesman in Little Rock did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Mr. Muhammad, formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe, had moved to Little Rock this spring as his father, Melvin Bledsoe of Memphis expanded a tour bus company. Mr. Muhammad was one of the drivers and served clients from a Hilton hotel in Little Rock.

Mr. Muhammad is in protective custody at the Pulaski County jail. Prosecutor Larry Jegley said it could be nine weeks before his office receives the case file from police. Defendants have to be charged in circuit court within 60 business days of their first court appearance.

John Soos, a civilian spokesman for the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, said Pvt. Ezeagwula will likely be transferred to a military hospital for continued treatment and the Army was willing to provide a military funeral for Pvt. Long.

“We just have to wait and see what needs they have,” he said.

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