Would-be terrorist caught with fake bomb

BALTIMORE – A 21-year-old part-time construction worker obsessed with jihad was arrested yesterday when he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb at a military recruiting centre – the second time in less than two weeks that an alleged homegrown American terrorist has been nabbed in a sting operation.

Antonio Martinez, a naturalised United States 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 yesterday.

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

Martinez, who had recently converted to Islam, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the weapon of mass destruction charge and 20 years on the attempted murder charge.

He told an FBI informant he thought about nothing but jihad, according to court documents. He was not deterred even after a Somali-born teenager was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in late November in an FBI sting.

The Oregon suspect, Mohamed Mohamud, intended to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, but the people he had been communicating with about the plot were FBI agents.

Martinez wondered briefly if he was headed down a similar path, documents indicate.

“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” he told the FBI informant when he heard about the Oregon case.

He said he still wanted to go ahead, but the informant told him to think about it and call the next day.

An undercover FBI agent they were working with advised the informant to make Martinez think the agent did not trust him. Martinez told the informant he would tell the agent he knew “what happened to the brother in Oregon, we don’t work for those people”.

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

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

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

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