Born as Mark Fidel Kools in 1967, Asan Akbar is a black American convert to Islam and a former member of the U.S. military’s 101st Airborne Division. Prior to joining the military, he attended the University of California at Davis, where he studied aeronautical and mechanical engineering from 1988-97. During his time there, he changed his name to Asan Akbar, worshiped at the student mosque which was controlled by the Muslim Students’ Association, and attended the Saudi-owned Bilal Islamic Center in Los Angeles, whose imams have long been renowned for their extremism.
Akbar joined the Army in 1998. While stationed at the U.S. military installation in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he attended weekly prayer services led by a radical Muslim chaplain named Mohammed Khan, who had trained at the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences and was certified by the Islamic Society of North America. Khan’s anti-Americanism was on display in a December 2000 article wherein he wrote: “There have been over one million innocent Iraqis killed by the United States. It’s a war crime.”
Akbar served in a mine-clearing battalion in Iraq when American forces invaded that country in March 2003. In the early morning hours of March 23, at a rear base camp in Kuwait, he threw live fragmentation grenades into or near three separate tents where fellow American troops were still sleeping; he then fired rifle shots into the ensuing chaos. All told, two soldiers were killed and fourteen were wounded. According to U.S. Army spokesman Max Blumenfeld, Akbar’s motive in the attack “most likely was resentment.” A Los Angeles Times report noted that a number of U.S. soldiers said that they had recently heard Akbar declare, “You guys are coming into our [Muslim] countries and you’re going to rape our women and kill our children.” Akbar’s stepfather, William Bilal, said: “Three years ago, Hasan started complaining about the problems he was having as a black man in the military.” And Akbar’s mother, Quran Bilal, told a Nashville newspaper that prior to leaving for Iraq her son had told her, “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.”
On April 21, 2005, a military jury convicted Akbar of premeditated murder and attempted murder, marking the first time since the Vietnam War that a U.S. soldier was prosecuted for having intentionally slain a fellow soldier in wartime. During the trial, it was revealed that Akbar, in a February 24, 2003 diary entry, had written that he felt mistreated by the military and planned revenge: “I suppose they want to punk me or just humiliate me. Perhaps they feel that I will not do anything about that. They are right about that. I am not going to do anything about it as long as I stay here. But as soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible. I will have to decide [whether] to kill my Muslim brothers fighting for Saddam Hussein or my battle buddies. I am hoping to get into a position so I don’t have to take any crap from anyone anymore. I may not have killed any Muslims, but being in the Army is the same thing. I may have to make a choice very soon on who to kill.”
When he was sentenced to death on April 28, 2005, Akbar stated: “I want to apologize for the attack that occurred. I felt that my life was in jeopardy, and I had no other options. I also want to ask you for forgiveness.”
The following day, a Los Angeles Times piece published some of Akbar’s diary entries from years earlier, where he had written:
Further Reading: “Army: U.S. Soldier Acted Out of Resentment in Grenade Attack” (Associated Press, 3-24-2003); “Army Says Sergeant Held in Grenade Attack Will Be Held for Pretrial Investigation” (NY Times, 3-26-2003); “Wahhabism in the War” (by Stephen Schwartz, 3-27-2003); “Hasan Akbar’s Chilling Diary Entries” (by Daniel Pipes, 4-14-2005); “Saudi Money Everywhere Akbar Was” (by Joel Mowbray, 4-9-2003); “Muslim GIs Also Battle Prejudice” (Los Angeles Times, 3-30-2003).