In the second foiled terrorist bombing incident in two weeks, a 21-year-old American Muslim was arrested Wednesday in connection with a plan to blow up a military recruiting and induction center near Baltimore, Justice Department officials said.
The Baltimore man, Antonio Martinez, who identified himself in court Wednesday as Muhammad Hussain, was said to be a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam. He had been under surveillance since he approached an FBI informant in October, according to court documents, and was arrested when he allegedly tried to plant a phony bomb given him by undercover by FBI agents.
According to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Wednesday, Martinez had told the FBI he wanted to kill U.S. Army soldiers because they were killing his "Muslim brothers and sisters'' in Afghanistan. He said he had been inside the military recruiting center before he decided to convert to Islam. "We're gonna hit 'em where it hurts,'' he asserted in one conversation with an undercover agent recorded by the FBI.
Martinez was charged Wednesday with attempted murder of federal officers and employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The FBI official who oversaw the case, Keith E. Bender, is a former Army officer who had served in Afghanistan.
The military center in Catonsville, Md., houses recruiters for the four military services and is where military volunteers first assemble to take entrance exams and to be sworn in before shipping out to boot camp or basic training. There are usually at least several dozen people there, and on days when inductions are scheduled there can be several hundred.
Justice Department spokesman Dan Boyd said there had been "no actual danger to the public as the explosives were inert and the suspect had been carefully monitored by law enforcement for months.''
Wednesday's arrest is the latest in a series of sting operations involving Muslims accused of engaging in attempted terrorist plots. In the most recent case
, a 19-year-old Oregon man was arrested Nov. 26 on charges that he had attempted to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland.
Authorities said Martinez had posted several pro-Jihad messages on his Facebook page, including one on Sept. 29 which reads: "The sword is cumin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease inshallah ta'ala YA muslimeen! Don't execept the free world we are slaves of the Most High and never forget it!'' On Oct. 1 post read: "Any 1 who opposes ALLAH and HIS Prophet PEACE.Be.upon.Him I hate u with all my heart.''
In communications recorded by the FBI, Martinez said he wanted to attack Army recruiting centers "or anything military,'' according to the criminal complaint
. "He indicated that if the military continued to kill their Muslim brothers and sisters, they would need to expand their operation by killing U.S. Army personnel where they live,'' the complaint says. Jihad, Martinez allegedly explained to the FBI undercover agent, is not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also in the United States.
"We're gonna fight against them ... until they stop the oppression ... fight the disbelievers until there is no more oppression and the religion is only for Allah '' Martinez allegedly said, in one of many conversations recorded by the FBI. "Each and every Muslim in this country ... knows that America is at war with Islam ... we have to be the ones to pull that trigger.''
In another conversation, the complaint says, Martinez vowed: "We're gonna hit 'em where it hurts ... We are gonna go ... to their stations, to their bases, to everywhere a soldier is. Every soldier that we see in uniform will be killed on the spot, Inshallah ...''
He also claimed to have been in touch with Anwar al-Awlaki
, the charismatic American-born Islamist cleric who inspired both the suspected "underwear bomber,'' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused to trying to blow up an airliner landing in Detroit last Christmas, and Pakistani Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square last May.
Awlaki also mentored U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is charged with opening fire at Fort Hood in November 2009, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 30. Hasan is currently incarcerated, awaiting a decision by the Army on whether to proceed with a court martial.
Awlaki is a leader in the terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
(AQAP), which was responsible for the attempted bombings of cargo and passenger jets planes in October.
The alleged Baltimore plot comes as senior U.S. counterterrorism officials are warning that it is impossible to prevent such small-scale terrorist attempts, especially those involving only one person.
"We will not stop all the attacks,'' Michael Leiter, director of the National Counter Intelligence Center
, said in a recent talk
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank.
He said al-Qaeda is still a potent threat, capable of mounting complex and "potentially catastrophic'' attacks on the United States.
But he said the rise of al-Qaeda "affiliates,'' such as AQAP, "has complicated our task significantly'' because they have the capability to mount "more attacks, more often."
But in acknowledging the likelihood that someday an attempted terrorist attack will succeed, Leiter added: "I want to be very, very clear in this because some comments in this vein have previously brought the ire of some. To say that we will not successfully defend against all attacks is certainly not to say that we are not trying to stop all attacks. We are. It is certainly not to say that any attack is OK. If there is an attack, it may well be tragic. Innocent lives will be lost.
"In this era of this more complicated threat and a more diverse threat and lower-scale attacks, to include individuals who have been radicalized here in the homeland, stopping all of the attacks has become that much harder,'' Leiter said.