US Officials: Jihad-obsessed man snared in bomb plot

Antonio Martinez, 21, attempted to detonate a fake bomb, provided by the FBI, at a military recruitment center; may face life in prison.

December 9, 2010 11:27
3 minute read.
Police car in front of a US Courthouse

US terror plot 311. (photo credit: AP)

A 21-year-old part-time construction worker obsessed with jihad was arrested Wednesday when he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb at a military recruitment center — the second time in less than two weeks that an alleged homegrown terrorist was nabbed in a sting operation.

Antonio Martinez, a naturalized US citizen who goes by the name Muhammad Hussain, faces charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

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The bomb he's accused of trying to detonate was fake and had been provided by an undercover FBI agent. It was loaded into an SUV that Martinez parked in front of the recruiting center, authorities said, and an FBI informant picked him up and drove him to a nearby vantage point where he tried to set it off.

"There was never any actual danger to the public during this operation this morning," US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Wednesday. "That's because the FBI was controlling the situation."

Martinez, who had recently converted to Islam, appeared in US District Court in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon and was ordered held until a hearing Monday. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the weapon of mass destruction charge and 20 years on the attempted murder charge.

Martinez told an FBI informant he thought about nothing but jihad, according to court documents. He wasn't deterred even after a Somali-born teenager was arrested in Portland, Oregon, the day after Thanksgiving in an FBI sting.

A former girlfriend, Alisha Legrand, said she met him three or four years ago — before he became a Muslim — and described him as quiet. The two last spoke over the summer and Legrand, 20, said Martinez tried to get her to convert.

"He said he tried the Christian thing. He just really didn't understand it," she said, adding that he seemed to have his life under control after converting to Islam.

Public defender Joseph Balter cautioned against a rush to judgment.

"It's very, very early in this case," he said.

Court documents indicated that Martinez "moved from place to place" because he didn't want anybody to find him. A woman inside an apartment that reportedly belonged to his mother declined to speak with an AP reporter.

His commitment to jihad caused strain in his family, the documents show. The FBI informant reported listening to Martinez during a long conversation with his mother.

"She wants me to be like everybody else, being in school, working," Martinez told the informant. "My wife understands. ... I told her I want to fight jihad. ... She said she doesn't want to stop me."

Martinez's Facebook page identifies his wife as Naimah Ismail-Hussain, who describes herself as a student and employee at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Attempts to reach her were not immediately successful.

According to the court documents, the informant first contacted the FBI on Oct. 8 after communicating with Martinez through Facebook, where he had posted notes that alluded to jihad.

"The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease," Martinez wrote in one post.

Martinez told the informant he didn't know how to build a bomb, according to the documents, but investigators nonetheless believed he posed a genuine threat, Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein stressed that Martinez acted alone and that the idea to blow up the military recruitment center was his, not the FBI's. He also noted that Martinez approached four people about the plot. Two declined to help him, one actively tried to dissuade him and the fourth was the informant who turned him into the FBI, Rosenstein said.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the arrest underscores the need for vigilance against terrorism and illustrates why the Obama administration is focused on addressing "domestic radicalization."

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