Man accused in Catonsville bomb plot urged holy war, feds say

Antonio Martinez was tracked by federal agents; FBI documents unsealed in December conspiracy

February 10, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

For weeks, federal agents say, they had Antonio Martinez under surveillance, watching as he pulled up jihadist videos on computers in Baltimore County libraries and posted Facebook messages urging holy war on nonbelievers. The agents tracked his every move, the hours he spent staring at the screen, his comings and goings.

On Dec. 7, the night before Martinez — he prefers the name Muhammad Hussain — embarked on what the agents say was an attempt to attack the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville, he wrote via Facebook to a man he believed was helping him but who was an undercover FBI agent.

After thanking his "beloved brother" for taking part in the plan, Martinez wrote of "a journey that will require patience, sincerity, unity" and expressed the hope that "with the help of Allah we will be victorious."

The comments were included in court documents unsealed in the federal case against Martinez, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen of Nicaraguan heritage who had sold children's clothing at a suburban Baltimore mall. The bomb agents say he took to Catonsville on Dec. 8 was inert and had been provided to him as part of the same sting under which he had met his presumed accomplice. Martinez was arrested, agents said, just after he attempted to detonate the device in a sport utility vehicle.

On Dec. 21, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property.

In an affidavit filed Jan. 24, FBI agent Kyra M. Dressler, one of the investigators in the case, asked a federal judge to sign search warrants for computers and hard drives in the Baltimore County Public Library's branches in Woodlawn and Catonsville, where Martinez had repeatedly been observed before his arrest. Dressler also procured a warrant to compel managers at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to provide all records of postings and traffic on Martinez's page, now closed. The company complied.

Beginning in June and until shortly before his arrest, according to the affidavit, Martinez accessed the Internet about 481 times at county libraries, and remained logged on an average of one to two hours. On the afternoon of Nov. 3, for instance, he was observed looking at the website RevolutionMuslim.com, and then watched a video of Osama bin Laden speaking followed by "multiple jihadist training-camp video clips," the affidavit said.

At one point, Martinez lost access to the library computers because he had failed to pay a $10.50 fine, but solved the problem by borrowing his stepfather's library card, according to the document.

On Nov. 11, he posted a link to a YouTube video of a Quranic recitation on the subject of heaven and hell, and the following day a video of mujahedeen — Muslim warriors — on horseback waving the black-and-white banners of al-Qaida. A subtitle said: "Doesn't my death only come once in life, so why not make its ending my martyrdom?"

That same day, according to the document, Martinez wrote another Facebook comment, urging his "brothers" to "meet our wives in paradise," an allusion to the common belief among Muslim men that martyrdom in the cause of holy war against infidels will be rewarded in heaven with the favors of a bevy of maidens.

In a conversation with the undercover agent five weeks before his arrest, Martinez was recorded as saying that since he had no money to go overseas, he would wage war in the United States and "fight the disbelievers until there is no more oppression and the religion is only for Allah." He went on to say that "each and every Muslim in this country knows that America is at war with Islam and they're not doing anything about it."

Martinez, according to a criminal complaint, said he knew how to make "cocktail bombs" and "suggested they could toss them into the recruiting station and shoot personnel as they ran out."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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