A 21-year-old construction worker who had recently converted to Islam and told an FBI informant he thought about nothing but jihad was arrested Wednesday when he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb at a military recruitment center, authorities said.
Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, faces charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
The bomb he is accused of trying to detonate was fake and had been provided by an undercover FBI agent.
“There was no actual danger to the public as the explosives were inert and the suspect had been carefully monitored by law enforcement for months,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland said in a statement.
Martinez appeared in court Wednesday afternoon and was ordered held until a hearing Monday.
According to court documents, he has been on the FBI’s radar screen since October, when he told a confidential FBI source he wanted to attack and kill military personnel.
The case is similar to one in Portland, Ore., where authorities said they arrested a Somali-born teenager the day after Thanksgiving when he used a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van. He intended to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, but the people he had been communicating with about the plot were in fact FBI agents.
After that case became public, Martinez called the FBI source he had been working with on the Maryland bomb plot, according to court documents, which said he seemed worried about another person that source had introduced him to. The person was an undercover FBI agent.
“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” court documents quote him as saying.
After meeting with the source, however, Martinez decided to continue with the plot, according to the court documents. On Wednesday he drove an SUV with the dummy bomb to the recruiting center and parked outside the building, authorities said. When he attempted to detonate the device, he was arrested.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Martinez told the judge he could not afford an attorney. He said he works in construction, is married and understood the charges against him.
Asked to identify himself, he said he was Muhammad Hussain but confirmed Antonio Martinez is still his legal name.
Afterward, Joseph Balter, the public defender assigned to represent him, cautioned against a rush to judgment.
“It’s very very early in this case,” he said.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the arrest underscores the need for vigilance against terrorism and illustrates why the Obama administration is focused on addressing “domestic radicalization.”