The Hasan Akbar case covers an event in the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, where a U.S. Army soldier Hasan Karim Akbar (born Mark Fidel Kools, c. 1971) was convicted for the double-murder, or "fragging", of two fellow soldiers of the 101st Airborne, 327th Infantry Regiment.
Akbar, a Muslim convert from Los Angeles, California, was convicted and sentenced to death. The victims were Army Captain Christopher Seifert and Air Force Major Gregory Stone. Fourteen other soldiers were also wounded in the incident, which took place on March 23, 2003.
The sentence, affirmed by the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, is due to be heard by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals under an automatic appeal.
Akbar was born Mark Fidel Kools in Watts, Los Angeles. At some undetermined point in his childhood, his mother remarried and converted to Islam.
He was admitted in 1988 under the name of Mark Fidel Kools to the University of California, Davis, graduating 9 years later with Bachelor's degrees in both Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering. After joining the United States Army, he was assigned to Alpha Company, 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne, assigned as a Sapper and was eventually deployed to Kuwait.
The two dead, Army Captain Christopher Seifert and Air Force Major Gregory Stone, were also members of the 101st Airborne Division.
Killings and aftermath
Akbar was charged in a hand grenade and shooting attack that killed Army Captain Christopher Seifert and Air Force Major Gregory Stone, while wounding 14 other soldiers on March 23, 2003.
The attack took place at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, a rear base camp for the invasion where Akbar threw hand grenades into a tent during early morning when the majority of troops were sleeping and fired his rifle into the ensuing chaos. News reports at the time claimed that Akbar had been recently reprimanded for insubordination and was told he would not join his unit's push into Iraq.
Although Akbar confessed to the crimes, his lawyers claimed that he had a history of mental illness which was known to the military. During jury selection, the defense lawyers were said to favor jurors who have had experience dealing with mental illness.
During his trial Akbar smuggled a pair of scissors out of a conference room, then asked the Military Police Officer guarding him to remove his hand cuffs so that he might use the restroom. When the Officer did remove Akbar's restraints he then stabbed the officer in the shoulder and neck with the scissors before being wrestled to the ground by another Officer. This attack was not allowed to be admitted as evidence by the army judge, during sentencing.
He was tried in Fort Bragg, North Carolina in front of a military jury of nine officers, with ranks from major to colonel, and six senior sergeants. There were 13 men and two women on the jury.
Verdict and appeals
On April 21, 2005 Akbar was found guilty of two counts of premeditated murder (of Army Capt. Christopher Seifert, 27, who was shot in the back, and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, struck by shrapnel) and three counts of attempted premeditated murder. He was sentenced to death on April 28, the jury deliberating for around 7 hours.
On November 20, 2006 Lieutenant General John Vines, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, affirmed the death sentence against Akbar. The case now goes to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals under an automatic appeal. If the appeal fails, the execution will take place by lethal injection.
Since the Vietnam War, Akbar is the first U.S. soldier to be charged with the murder of another soldier during wartime, and the second soldier since the Vietnam War to be sentenced to death for killing a fellow soldier, though William Kreutzer Jr.'s sentence was commuted to life. The last U.S. military execution was that of John A. Bennett in 1961.
Military officials for the most part did not believe his religious beliefs had anything to do with the attack, and attributed Akbar's motive to resentment. In a diary entry dated February 4, 2003, Akbar referred to mistreatment by his fellow soldiers:
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.
Akbar wrote prior to the attack "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." As early as 1992 he had made threatening statements such as "I made a promise that if I am not able to achieve success because of some Caucasians, I will kill as many of them as possible." and 1996: "destroying America was my plan as a child, and as a juvenile and in college. Destroying America is my greatest goal."
Prosecutors alleged that his diary entries and his actions (stealing hand grenades and turning off the generator that lit the camp) showed that the attack was premeditated. One diary entry dated 1997 said "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed."
Akbar's mother, Quran Bilal, did tell reporters that she believed intolerance for his race and his Muslim faith created tensions within his unit as it prepared to invade a Muslim country. Akbar's father has said that his son was the only African American and only Muslim in his company, the other members of which subjected him to constant harassment.
Akbar himself reportedly said, just moments after his arrest, "You guys are coming into our countries, and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."
University of California Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said, “The circumstance is so very sad — devastating heartbreak for the families and friends of the soldiers, certainly, but a confusing, hurtful time for those who knew Mr. Kools/Akbar, as well. I hope and pray for the recovery of the wounded, and for healing comfort for the families of those killed."