U.S. man pleads not guilty in Maryland bomb plot

NEW YORK Sat Jan 8, 2011 4:06am IST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Baltimore man accused of plotting to detonate a vehicle bomb at an Armed Forces recruitment center in Maryland pleaded not guilty on Friday, the U.S. Attorney's office in Maryland said.

Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, was charged with attempted murder of federal officers and employees and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, according to the indictment filed in a federal court in Baltimore.

Martinez, 21, is being held without bail.

He was arrested in December as part of an FBI sting operation in which a law enforcement source and an undercover FBI agent posing as an "Afghani brother" recorded hours of conversations with Martinez where he said he wanted to attack the United States, an FBI affidavit said.

It said that when the FBI source asked Martinez, a convert to Islam, whether to proceed with the plot and tried to determine if he was feeling pushed, Martinez replied, "I came to you about this brother."

His was the third terrorism-related FBI sting operation arrest in so many months.

In November a man was arrested on charges he tried to detonate what he thought was a car bomb parked near a Portland, Oregon, Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

A U.S. citizen born in Pakistan was arrested in October after he tried to help people he believed were al Qaeda operatives plan bombings at Washington-area Metrorail stations. These people were law enforcement sources.

Some defense attorneys have said such sting operations constitute entrapment. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says they are integral to finding people who are on a path to attack the United States and Americans.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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