The mother of Antonio Martinez, the man accused of plotting to bomb a military recruitment center in Maryland, wants that much, at least, to be clear. A day after Martinez was arrested on terrorism charges and accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in a sting set up by the FBI, the woman -- who would not give her name but identified herself to The Associated Press as Martinez's mother -- said she is a "devout American" and is embarrassed by her son's actions.
Like the other accused "homegrown" terrorists before him -- from would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad to Jose Padilla, who admitted to training with al-Qaida -- each new detail about Martinez's life only seems to raise more questions about how a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nicaragua who attended American schools and once tried to join the Army could have allegedly turned to violent jihad before his 22nd birthday.
On his Facebook page, which authorities say tipped them off to Martinez's radicalism, the 21-year-old introduces himself as just "a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who embraced Islam" and seems to make his allegiances clear. "Any 1 who opposes ALLAH and HIS Prophet Peace.Be.upon.Him I Hate u with all my heart," he wrote Oct. 1.
But little is known about Martinez's early years, and what information there is offers nothing that would suggest he was on a path to becoming a terrorist.
Before Martinez began posting radical, anti-American messages on his Facebook wall, he worked retail, selling children's clothes in a Maryland shopping mall, according to The Baltimore Sun. Interestingly, one of his former co-workers told the newspaper that Martinez's conversion to Islam came not long after he was newly baptized as a Christian.
According to his Facebook profile, he attended Laurel High School in Maryland in 2005, though it's not clear if he graduated. And he says he is married, to Naimah Ismail-Hussain, who describes herself on her Facebook page as a student and "circulation assistant" at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. A call to the college was not returned today, and Ismail-Hussain could not be reached for comment.
Martinez has been arrested before, but the charges against him were far from terror-related. In 2006, Martinez was charged with armed robbery in Montgomery County, Md., when he was 16, according to court records obtained by the Sun. And in 2008, he was convicted of theft and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
"In some ways, it is not the volume [of conversion] necessarily. It is not like folks are worried about vast communities or subcommunities of Latinos joining al-Qaida," Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration, told National Public Radio. "What has got people's attention is the nature of individuals who have been caught in this web."