Baltimore man charged in car-bomb plot

FBI sting target tried to blast military center in Maryland

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Federal authorities on Wednesday charged a 21-year-old Baltimore man with participating in what he believed was a plot to detonate a car bomb outside a military recruiting center in Catonsville, Md.

Antonio Martinez, who also goes by the name Muhammad Hussain and is identified in court papers as a “recent convert to Islam,” was charged with attempted murder of federal officers/employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property.

Authorities said Mr. Martinez was arrested after attempting to detonate what he thought was a bomb that had been constructed and delivered by a federal agent posing as a fellow conspirator. Agents observed Mr. Martinez arming what he thought was the explosive device and driving the sports utility vehicle that contained it to the recruiting center. At Mr. Martinez’s request, the agent posing as a conspirator called to confirm that there were soldiers inside the building.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said there was no actual danger to the public. He said “every person Mr. Martinez asked to join in his scheme either declined to participate, tried to talk him out of it, or reported him to the FBI, and there is no evidence Mr. Martinez received direction or support from any other person.”

Mr. Martinez appeared in court Wednesday afternoon and was ordered held until a hearing Monday.

Antonio Martinez of Baltimore faces charges of attempted murder after authorities say he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb at the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville, Md. (Associated Press)

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Antonio Martinez of Baltimore faces charges of attempted murder after authorities say ... more >

The sting operation appeared similar to last month’s arrest of a Somali man who was led to believe he was detonating an explosive-laden vehicle during a Christmas-tree lighting in a crowded block in Portland.

Court papers said Mr. Martinez became agitated when he saw news coverage of the Portland arrest and “expressed concern” to the confidential source working with the FBI.

“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” court papers quoted Mr. Martinez as saying.

Authorities appear to have reassured Mr. Martinez he was not the target of a sting by having the confidential source tell him that the undercover agent posing as a conspirator was reconsidering his role in the plan because he thought he was being set up by the FBI.

The confidential source repeatedly asked Mr. Martinez if he was certain he wanted to go forward with the plan, saying once he did not want him to feel he was participating because someone was “pushing” him.

“I came to you about this, brother,” the affidavit quoted Mr. Martinez as saying.

The court papers said the confidential source alerted authorities on Oct. 8 to Facebook postings by Mr. Martinez in the weeks prior that called for violence to stop the oppression of Muslims and stating that he hates those who oppose Allah and his prophet.

The source exchanged messages with Mr. Martinez through Facebook, later introducing him to an undercover FBI agent who posed as the source’s “Afghan brother” and told Mr. Martinez he could make a car bomb. The 18-page affidavit, thick with quotes from transcripts of recorded meetings, detailed their conversations.

Mr. Martinez said he was familiar with the recruiting center because he had considered joining the military prior to his conversion. In the course of the conversations, he discussed a number of attack plans that involved detonating homemade bombs, burning the building or mounting a mass shooting.

“He indicated that if the military continued to kill their Muslim brothers and sisters, they would need to expand their operation by killing U.S. Army personnel where they live,” the affidavit said.

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