Iraq war hits closer to home with arrest of UC Davis alum

UC Davis has been the focus of intense media attention as Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a 1997 UC Davis alum, is being detained as a suspect in the March 23 grenade attack at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. The attack, in which the soldier is suspected of rolling grenades into tents and firing a gun at fleeing officers, has resulted in two deaths and 15 injuries to U.S. Army officers.

Based on campus records, Akbar had a very low-profile tenure at UC Davis, where he was admitted in 1988 under the name of Mark Fidel Kools. After nine years pursuing his degree, taking some quarters off, he graduated in 1997 under the name Hasan Karim Akbar with dual bachelor’s of science degrees in aeronautical science engineering and mechanical engineering.

“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,” said  Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef.

Akbar did not take part in UC Davis’ Army ROTC program, which has produced hundreds of UC Davis alumni who are now military officers, many of whom are currently serving in the Iraq war, according to Lt. Col. Don Hill, director of the UC Davis military science program.

Among the UC Davis engineering faculty, few remember Akbar. Several professors did recall that he requested alternatives to final exams one quarter when he said he was traveling abroad to get married. “I do remember that, at that time, his faith and his family  seemed more important to him than his studies,” said professor Mont Hubbard, who had Akbar in one of his mechanical engineering courses.

According to news reports, Akbar lived the typical itinerant life of a student, residing at many Davis addresses over the course of his studies. Former dormmates interviewed by the Davis Enterprise reported that they held Akbar in high regard, and deeply respected his academic ethic and his Muslim religious convictions. Media reports have said he grew up in the Watts area of South Central Los Angeles, where he was a high-achieving student and regularly attended a local mosque.

Additional news coverage of Akbar can be found at

Media Resources

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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