Jane Watrel, courtroom sketch by Art Lien
A Baltimore man is under arrest and accused of trying to set off a car bomb outside a military recruiting center. (Courtroom sketch by Art Lien.)
A man was ordered held until a Monday hearing after his arrest in an alleged plot to bomb a military recruitment facility.
Construction worker Antonio Martinez, 21, aka Muhammad Hussain, is charged with attempted murder of federal officers and employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property, according to court documents.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore, Martinez was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with a plot to attack an Armed Forces Career Center on Route 40 in Catonsville, Md., with what he believed to be a vehicle bomb.
Public defender Joseph Balter warned against rushing to judgment.
"It's very, very early in this case," he said.
There was no actual danger to the public, as the explosives were inert and the suspect had been carefully monitored by law enforcement for about two months after being approached by an FBI source, whom he told he wanted to target a military recruiting center or anything military, federal officials said. Martinez told the source, who contacted him via Facebook in October, that if the military continued killing Muslims, military personnel would have to be killed where they live, according to the criminal complaint. He said he believed the U.S. was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an excuse to kill Muslims.
During one recorded meeting with the source, Martinez, a recent convert to Islam, said Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the massacre at Fort Hood, only killed 13 soldiers but saved the lives of many Muslims who would have been killed by those soldiers. He also referred to Anwar al-Aulaqi -- an al-Qaeda sympathizer living in Yemen who had exchanged e-mails with Hasan and who in July was designated by the Treasury Department as a "specially designated global terrorist" -- as his "beloved sheikh."
In discussions with the source, Martinez considered different strategies of attack, including various bombs and weapons. He once suggested waiting inside the recruiting center for military personnel to show up and then shooting everyone in the place, telling the source, "before I became Muslim, I was about to join the military ... So I've been in there," according to the criminal complaint.
Martinez tried to recruit at least three other people to join him, including one who said he could get weapons, but all three declined and one tried to convince Martinez not to commit jihad, according to court documents. The FBI source then connected Martinez with an undercover FBI agent.
The agent discouraged Martinez's plans to go in the recruiting center with a gun and shooting every one inside, according to court documents. The plot then centered on a vehicle bomb, which the agent said he would get together for Martinez.
An official who was briefed on the arrest told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information that Martinez is a United States citizen. He adopted Islam and then became radicalized, Pete Williams reported for NBC news.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said there is no evidence that this person is tied to the string of shootings at military establishments in the past couple of months in the Washington region. Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, are investigating five shootings in that case. Two shooting incidents were reported at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. Another shooting incident was reported at the Pentagon. A shooting incident was reported at a Marine recruiting center in Chantilly, Va. And another shooting was reported at a Coast Guard recruiting office near Potomac Mills Mall in Prince William County.
The case does appear similar to a recent bomb plot in Portland, Ore. The day after Thanksgiving, a Somali-born teenager was arrested there after using a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van, authorities said. He thought he
was going to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
Like the Baltimore County case, it turned out to be a dummy bomb plot put together by FBI agents. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested after authorities said he planned the details of the plot, including where to park the van filled with explosives to hurt the most people. Mohamud allegedly believed he was receiving help from a larger ring of jihadists as he communicated with undercover agents.
After Mohamud's arrest, Martinez became suspicious of the undercover agent but later told the FBI source that he wanted to go through with the plan, according to the criminal complaint. Both the source and the agent repeatedly asked Martinez if he was sure the attack was the direction he wanted to take.
The incidents are the latest in a string of alleged terrorist plans by U.S. citizens or residents, including a Times Square plot in which a Pakistan-born man tried to set off a car bomb on a busy street. He pleaded guilty earlier this year.
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