Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

Featured Posts        





Dec 12th, 2010

Suspect Detained in Alleged Plot to Bomb Military Recruitment Office

Maryland bomb plot suspect knew about Oregon sting

Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, faces charges of attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction after authorities say he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb at this military recruitment center near Baltimore. (Photo credit: Steve Ruark / AP)

By Ben Nuckols

Dec. 9, 2010

BALTIMORE — A 21-year-old part-time construction worker charged with trying to blow up a Baltimore-area military recruiting center briefly hesitated when he heard about a federal sting operation that nabbed an alleged terrorist in Oregon last month but decided to keep going with his plan, authorities said.

Antonio Martinez, a naturalized U.S. citizen who goes by the name Muhammad Hussain after recently converting to Islam, faces charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

A woman who identified herself as Martinez’s mother but refused to give her name told The Associated Press on Thursday that she tried to persuade him not to convert to Islam. She said she’s a “devout American” and is upset and embarrassed over her son’s actions.

The woman spoke to an AP reporter at an apartment in Woodlawn, a Baltimore suburb, where Martinez’s relatives reportedly live. She said that Martinez’s father is Nicaraguan and declined to comment further.

Court documents released Wednesday said Martinez told the informant he thought about nothing but jihad and wasn’t deterred even after a Somali-born teenager was arrested in Portland, Ore., the day after Thanksgiving in an FBI sting.

The Oregon suspect intended to bomb a crowded downtown Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. But — like Martinez — the people he’d been communicating with about the plot were with the FBI. Martinez wondered if he was headed down a similar path, documents say.

“I’m not falling for no b.s.,” he told the informant when he heard about the Oregon case. Still he wanted to go ahead with the plan.

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

The bomb he’s accused of trying to detonate was fake and had been provided by an undercover FBI agent. It was loaded into an SUV that Martinez parked in front of the Catonsville recruiting center, authorities said, and an FBI informant picked him up and drove him to a nearby vantage point where he tried to set it off.

“There was never any actual danger to the public during this operation,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Wednesday. “That’s because the FBI was controlling the situation.”

Martinez was in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Wednesday and was ordered held until a hearing Monday. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the weapon of mass destruction charge and 20 years on the attempted murder charge.

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

A former girlfriend, Alisha Legrand, said she met him three or four years ago — before he became a Muslim — and described him as quiet. …

Asked to identify himself during Wednesday’s hearing, Martinez said he was Muhammad Hussain but confirmed that Antonio Martinez is still his legal name. He wore an untucked, white button-down shirt and baggy blue jeans. His curly hair was long and unkempt, and he had sideburns and a goatee.

No one answered the door at his apartment in a tidy, three-story yellow building in a working-class northwest Baltimore neighborhood.

Court documents indicated that Martinez “moved from place to place” because he didn’t want anybody to find him.

His commitment to jihad caused strain in his family, the documents show. The FBI informant reported listening to Martinez during a long conversation with his mother.

“She wants me to be like everybody else, being in school, working,” Martinez told the informant. “My wife understands. … I told her I want to fight jihad. … She said she doesn’t want to stop me.”

Martinez’s Facebook page identifies his wife as Naimah Ismail-Hussain, who describes herself as a student and employee at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Attempts to reach her were not successful.

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

“The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease,” Martinez wrote in one post.

He picked the military recruitment center because he considered enlisting before he converted to Islam and had been inside, the documents showed.

Martinez told the informant he didn’t know how to build a bomb, according to the documents, but investigators nonetheless believed he posed a genuine threat, Rosenstein said. …

Rosenstein stressed that Martinez acted alone and that the idea to blow up the military recruitment center was his, not the FBI’s. He also noted that Martinez approached four people about the plot. Two declined to help him, one actively tried to dissuade him and the fourth was the informant who turned him in to the FBI, Rosenstein 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.”


Baltimore man arrested in alleged bomb plot (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 8, 2010) — Police have charged Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, with attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb at a U.S. Armed Forces recruitment center. NBC’s Brian Williams reports. (00:20)


6/28/11 Update: Related report

Virginia Man Charged in 2010 DC-Area Military Shooting

Yonathan Melaku
This undated file photo released by the Leesburg, Va., Police Department shows Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va., after his May 2011 arrest in Loudoun County, Va., charged with four counts of grand larceny. Melaku, who was detained during a security scare near the Pentagon last week, has been linked to the shootings last year at the Marine Corps museum in Quantico and several D.C.-area military recruitment stations, officials said Wednesday. (Photo credit: Leesburg Police Department /AP file)

By Eric Tucker and Matthew Barakat

June 24, 2011

LEESBURG, Va. — A Marine Corps reservist arrested in a security scare near the Pentagon last week was charged Thursday in a series of pre-dawn shootings at the Pentagon and other military buildings in the Washington area last year.

Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, has been in custody since early Friday, when he was caught after fleeing from police while trespassing inside Arlington National Cemetery after dark. His behavior and possessions prompted immediate suspicion from authorities, who closed the highways leading to the Pentagon during the Friday rush hour and launched an intensive investigation.

Federal prosecutors said in court documents Thursday that they found bomb-making materials in Melaku’s backpack and later found a typewritten list of potential bomb components inside his home. Investigators also found a video he took of himself firing shots outside the National Museum of the Marine Corps last fall and repeatedly saying the Arabic words “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is Great.” …

Melaku lists his religion as Muslim in military papers, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.

He has been a Marine reservist since September 2007 but has never deployed overseas. The Marine Corps has initiated procedures to kick him out of the Corps, and Melaku is not objecting, said spokesman Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli.

Military records for Melaku do not show any violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Piccoli said. But Melaku did miss mandatory training exercises from Oct. 14 through Oct. 17. The first shooting, at the Marine Corps museum, occurred on Oct. 17 [2010]. Melaku made up some of the drills he missed and continued to report for monthly assignments after October, Piccoli said.

Investigators said Melaku was carrying a backpack last Friday with a quantity of ammonium nitrate, which is widely used in explosives and is available commercially as fertilizer; a spiral notebook containing references to al-Qaida, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden; spent 9 mm shell casings; work gloves; a head lamp; and cans of spray paint. …

Ballistics evidence shows that a 9mm handgun was used in last year’s shootings, and the spent shell casings in Melaku’s backpack were the same brand as those used in last year’s shootings, according to an affidavit.

Inside his bedroom, authorities found a numbered list of items — including an alkaline battery, battery connector for 9 volt, LED light, and epoxy or super glue — consistent with producing a bomb. …

Investigators say forensic evidence links Melaku to five shootings last October and November, including at a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office and a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station. He was charged in two of the shootings, outside the Pentagon and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The FBI said at the time that the shooter was likely someone with a gripe against the military.

If convicted of all the charges already filed, Melaku would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison and a maximum of life.

Melaku was “not on our radar prior to Friday’s events,” said James McJunkin, the assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington field office. It appears Melaku had intended to carry out some sort of vandalism in the cemetery, McJunkin said. Authorities believe he was acting alone.

The federal charges, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, allege two counts each of damaging federal property with a gun and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. …

The charges were announced as federal authorities in Seattle arrested two men in a plot to use machine guns and grenades in an attack on a military recruiting station that also houses a daycare.

Homeland Security officials do not think it is likely there will be coordinated terrorist attacks against military recruiting and National Guard facilities, according to a May 31 [2011] assessment by the department, the National Guard Bureau of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and other organizations.

The agencies did agree, however, that lone offenders or groups will continue to try to launch attacks against these facilities, according to the assessment, marked “for official use only” and obtained by The Associated Press.

An official has said Melaku has no known ties to al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization.

Full story

Military shootings suspect is a ‘homegrown terrorist’ (NBC, June 23, 2011) — The suspect in a series of shootings at military targets likely acted alone, a criminal profiler told NBC Washington Thursday. … “I believe this man is a homegrown terrorist because I don’t believe he’s part of a major group that put him out there,” criminal profiler and anti-terrorism trainer Pat Brown said. … Brown said she believes Melaku is a psychopath. … Full story


Related reports on this site


Officials probe Oregon bomb suspect’s Pakistan link (NBC “Today,” Nov. 28. 2010) — CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla speaks with NBC counterterrorism expert Roger Cressey. (03:02)

Portland Somali Car Bomb Sting (Nov. 27, 2010)

Bin Laden Issues New Threat (Oct. 27, 2010)

New Post-9/11 Terrorist Strategy (Sept. 22, 2010)

Somali Terror Suspects Indicted (Aug. 7, 2010)

Times Square Taliban Link (May 7, 2010)

New York Bomb Suspect Arrested (May 3, 2010)

Times Square Bomb Plot Suspects (May 2, 2010)

Bomb Scare in Times Square (May 1, 2010)

Fears of ‘Homegrown Terrorism’ (Dec. 12, 2009)

Afghan-American Admits Role in Terror Plot (Sept. 19, 2009)

FBI Probing Somali Terror Link (March 12, 2009)

Minnesota Somalis Jihad-Bound? (Jan. 26, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 12, 2009

Fears of ‘Homegrown Terrorism’

FBI interrogates American Muslims (MSNBC, Dec. 11, 2009) — Five American Muslims accused of using the Internet to organize a plot to attack U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are interrogated by the FBI. (02:10)

One year ago today, I reported that a spike in terrorism cases involving U.S. citizens challenged long-held assumptions that Muslims in Europe are more susceptible to radicalization than their better-assimilated counterparts in the United States. According to several U.S. and international terrorism analysts, immigration trends, the global spread of a militant Islamism, and controversial actions by the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks increase the probability that U.S. Muslims will carry out a domestic attack.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — December 12, 2008

Rumsfeld Fingered on Abu Ghraib

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (center) with Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski (left), who was responsible for military jails in Iraq.

Two years ago today, on Dec. 12, 2008, I reported that an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee found that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck a crowded restaurant near the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk where Kurdish officials were meeting with Arab tribal leaders, killing at least 55 people and wounding about 120 in the deadliest attack in Iraq in nearly six months.

One Response to “Baltimore Bomb Plot ‘Jihad’”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bin Laden Issues New Threat Says:

    […] 6/28/11 Update: Marine Corps reservist charged in military shootings […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.