LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A Muslim convert who was under federal investigation pleaded not guilty yesterday in what police called a likely "political and religious" attack that killed a young soldier at a military recruiting center.

Abdulhakim Muhammad, 23, of Little Rock, was charged in Monday's death of Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway, outside an Army-Navy Career Center. Muhammad was ordered held without bail on a capital murder charge.

A prosecutor said that Muhammad admitted shooting Long and another soldier "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

An FBI-led joint terrorism task force based in the southern United States has been investigating Muhammad since he returned to the United States from Yemen, a law-enforcement official said.

The suspect had been jailed in Yemen at some point for using a Somali passport, the official said.

Police Chief Stuart Thomas said that Muhammad, previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, was a convert to Islam and was not part of any broader scheme to attack the American military.

Interviews with police show that he "probably had political and religious motives for the attack," the chief said. *