Fox News reports that federal authorities have launched a nationwide manhunt for a military recruit who planned a “Fort Hood-style jihad” against his fellow soldiers.
Here’s the good news (so far): the recruit wasn’t in uniform yet and wasn’t scheduled to report to basic training until next week. The man, identified only as “Booker” (a.k.a. Muhammad Abdullah Hassan) was recruited by the Army in February 2014, and his enlistment contract was terminated last week, after officials learned of the apparent plot. The FBI issued an alert after Booker reportedly told friends about his plan.
The alert is titled, “Planned Fort Hood-inspired Jihad against US Soldiers by Army Recruit” and was issued “to inform and protect officers who may encounter this individual or others exhibiting the same aspirations.” The source of the information contained in the alert was listed as “An FBI agent.”
Law enforcement sources familiar with the alert said others may have expressed similar intentions to commit jihad against American military installations. The alert was initially sent to the Kansas City Police Department, suggesting that authorities believe Booker may still be in the area where he was recruited.
Along with local police and the FBI, the Army’s 902nd Military Intelligence Group is also involved in the hunt. Headquartered at nearby Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the 902nd conducts counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage operations in the United States.
Little information on the alleged plot has been released, and it was unclear what type of threat Booker–and potentially, others–might pose to military installations in the Kansas City area or elsewhere around the country. As a basic trainee, Booker would have only limited access to weapons and ammunition in the tightly-controlled environment of a training base like Fort Jackson, SC; Fort Leonard Wood, MO, Fort Sill, OK, Fort Knox, KY and Fort Benning, GA.
The Army has not disclosed where Booker was scheduled for basic. That assignment is based on a recruit’s assigned military job, or MOS. Fort Leonard Wood, located about four hours southeast of Kansas City, is one of four major military installations in the region, along with Whiteman AFB, Fort Riley, KS and Fort Leavenworth.
A more likely target could be the various armed recruiting stations in the Kansas City area and the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), where recruits report before shipping out. Recruiting stations are typically located in shopping malls or similar locations, often with little security. In 2009, Abdulhakin Mujahid Muhammad, previously known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, attacked a recruiting office in Little Rock, AR, killing one soldier and wounding another.
Another unanswered question is why Booker was heading to basic training so soon after enlistment. With on-going military budget cuts and personnel reductions, fewer soldiers are entering the Army and waiting times for recruits who are accepted have lengthened. In some cases, soldiers wait up to a year for their desired military job. In the past, recruits have been able to enter the ranks sooner by allowing the service to “pick their job.”
Officials have not said what MOS Booker was slated to enter, of why he was shipping out barely a month after enlistment. The quick departure suggests the suspect did very well on his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), had a particular skills the Army needs (such as fluency in a foreign language), or the recruiting battalion that handles the Kansas City area was below quota and trying to catch up.
Now, the feds are trying to catch up to a would-be jihadist who was a week away from wearing the nation’s uniform.