Baltimore man tricked by FBI pleads guilty to trying to bomb recruiting site

Antonio Martinez, who attempted to detonate a car bomb at a Maryland recruiting station as an act of holy war against the United States, did not know the bomb was inert.

By , Staff writer

A Baltimore man entered a guilty plea on Thursday to attempting to use a car bomb to destroy a military recruiting office and kill the six service members in the building in an effort to wage Islamic holy war on US soil.

Antonio Martinez agreed to drive an SUV laden with what he thought was an active bomb to the front entrance of a recruiting station in Catonsville, Md. on Dec. 8, 2010.

After parking the car bomb, Mr. Martinez traveled to a safe distance where he attempted to detonate the explosives.

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What Martinez did not know was that his co-conspirators in the bombing were working undercover with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bomb was inert and the triggering device was rigged to fail.

Law enforcement officials stress that they gave Martinez multiple opportunities to back out of the bombing plot, including a chance four days before the planned attack.

“I came to you about this, brother,” Martinez said to an undercover FBI agent posing as a militant Muslim with connections in Afghanistan.

Under terms of a plea agreement, prosecutors are asking that Martinez be sentenced to 25 years in prison. He faces up to life in prison.

US District Judge Frederick Motz has set sentencing for April 6.

Martinez is a US citizen and was a recent convert to Islam at the time of the plot. He had come to admire the writings of Anwar Awlaki, the US-born militant cleric who had called on American-based Muslims to attack inside the US. The cleric was killed by an American missile in Yemen last year.

Martinez called him “a real inspiration.” He once wrote: “I love Sheikh Anwar al Awlaki for the sake of ALLAH.... I don’t care if he is on a terrorist list!”

According to court documents, the bomb plot began in the fall of 2010 when Martinez began attempting to recruit fellow Muslims for a violent operation against the US military in Maryland.

He told an associate that he wanted to send a message that American soldiers would be killed as long as the US continued its “war” against Islam.

But Martinez admitted that he did not know how to conduct an attack with explosives. At one point he suggested that perhaps they could stuff socks in the exhaust pipes of the soldiers’ cars with the hope that they would suffocate as they drove home.

By November, Martinez expressed a willingness to die in an attack, if necessary. “I have a desire to die in the cause of Allah… And if I got to hell for that, then I’ll be happy … we blow one recruiting center up … people ain’t gonna be able to get recruited at that one,” he told an associate, according to court documents. “Then we hit another one, then we hit another one.”

A week later in November 2010, he expressed similar views. “Every soldier that we see in uniform will be killed on the spot, God willing,” he said. “They will be killed until they stop waging war against Islam. We won’t stop, God willing, until they kill us or they lock us up. This is for Allah.”

The US Attorney in Maryland, Rod Rosenstein, said investigators relied on individuals coming forward from within the Muslim community to make the case.

“We are catching dangerous suspects before they strike, and we are investigating them in a way that maximizes the liberty and security of law-abiding citizens,” Mr. Rosenstein said. 

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