Baltimore man accused of plotting to blow up military recruiting station in Md.

Locator map of Southwest Baltimore County bombing plot
Gene Thorp/The Washington Post
By Maria Glod, Jerry Markon and Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 1:02 AM

A Baltimore construction worker was charged Wednesday with plotting to blow up a military recruiting station in Maryland after the FBI learned of his radical leanings on Facebook, joined his plot and supplied him with a fake car bomb that he tried to detonate, federal officials said.

Antonio Martinez, 21, a U.S. citizen who recently converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Hussain, declared on his Facebook page that he hates "Any 1 who opposes Allah." Those kinds of postings, brought to the FBI's attention, sparked an intensive investigation involving an undercover agent, a secret informant and a chilling plot to kill military personnel in the United States because they were killing Muslims overseas, according to an FBI affidavit filed Wednesday.

Martinez was so intent on carrying out the attack on the Catonsville recruiting station that he approached at least three people to join in what he saw as his mission, court papers say. Another - whom Martinez knew as his "Afghani brother" - was actually an undercover FBI agent.

The arrest is the latest in a series of cases in which federal authorities have used undercover operatives to monitor extremists, secretly befriend those suspected of plotting terror attacks and, in some cases, even to provide the means to carry them out.

Last month, undercover agents in Oregon helped a man who set out to kill thousands at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony prepare a bomb (which was fake), then arrested him after he tried to detonate it in a crowded public square. In October, federal agents posing as Islamic radicals met with a Northern Virginia man later accused of plotting to bomb Washington area Metro stations.

The FBI's tactics have been criticized by some Muslims, who accuse government agents of infiltrating mosques and trying to entrap members of their community. But the strategy has worked, said Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert with the Rand Corp think tank. "There is no question that they have prevented terrorist attacks," Jenkins said, adding that officials have become more careful in recent years to avoid entrapment.

Plots are allowed to proceed to the point where defendants think there will be an actual attack. That, he said, makes it easier for the government to bring more-serious terrorism charges.

In the Baltimore case, federal officials emphasized that Martinez came up with the idea and target for the plot, tried to recruit others and was given numerous chances by agents to back out.

Martinez, who went to school in Prince George's County, first came to the attention of federal officials in October when a confidential informant told them that Martinez wanted to kill members of the military. That began a series of recorded conversations that would eventually include an undercover FBI agent whom Martinez thought was from Afghanistan and would help him make a vehicle bomb and teach him how to detonate it.

Federal officials said Martinez was acting on his own, without direction from any outside terrorist group. Court papers describe a man obsessed with jihad and who longed to find others to join him.

"IM just a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who embraced Islam," Martinez wrote in a biography on his Facebook page. "We gotta rise up."

Martinez watched videos of Osama bin Laden and called Anwar al-Aulaqi his "beloved sheikh." Aulaqi, who is on a terror watch list, was the spiritual inspiration behind the attempted bombing of a jetliner over Detroit and the shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., that killed 13 people.

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