- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

BALTIMORE (AP) — A 21-year-old man charged with trying to blow up a military recruiting center briefly hesitated when he heard about a federal sting operation that nabbed an alleged terrorist in Oregon last month but decided to keep going with his plan, authorities said.

Antonio Martinez, a naturalized U.S. citizen who goes by the name Muhammad Hussain after recently converting to Islam, faces charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

He told an informant working with the FBI he thought about nothing but jihad and wasn’t deterred even after a Somali-born teenager was arrested in Portland, Ore., the day after Thanksgiving in a sting, court documents released Wednesday showed.

The Oregon suspect intended to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. But — like Martinez — the people he’d been communicating with about the plot were with the FBI. Martinez wondered if he was headed down a similar path, documents say.

After hearing about the Oregon case, Martinez was uneasy and called the informant demanding to know who he was, according to court documents.

“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” he told the informant. He said he still wanted to go ahead, but the informant told him to think about it overnight and call the next day, which Martinez did.

In the following days, Martinez reiterated his support for the plan several times, documents show, at one point reassuring the informant that he didn’t feel pressured to carry it out: “I came to you about this, brother.”

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,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Wednesday. “That’s because the FBI was controlling the situation.”

Martinez was in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Wednesday 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.

Authorities did not say where Martinez was born or why he converted to Islam.

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.

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