BALTIMORE (WJZ) — They tried to stop him. People who prayed with the Baltimore man accused of trying to bomb a recruiting center speak out.
Kelly McPherson spoke with the people who prayed alongside the terrorist suspect.
Mosque members say Antonio Martinez was looking for acceptance and love when he came to them a year ago. When he asked odd questions about jihad, they had him speak with mosque leaders. Then, he disappeared.
Martinez does have a criminal record. He was arrested for stealing a car in 2008.
About a year ago, local Muslims say he converted to Islam, changing his name to Mohammad Hussain.
Sometime in the past few months is when his extremist views sprouted on Facebook. And two months ago is when FBI agents started working undercover—guiding his plans to blow up the Armed Forces Career Center, a military recruitment center in Catonsville on Wednesday.
“That kid needed counseling, not a jail, though,” said Walker, a mosque member.
The Faizan-E-Madina mosque in the Security Plaza in Woodlawn is where Martinez converted to Islam. People there say they tried to steer him away from his extremist views.
“He was asking about, like, what is jihad? And how to do jihad and what to do,” said Ahmed Rana, mosque member. “We told him that jihad is to kill inside you, like, to go pray, be a good Muslim. Jihad is not to go kill people who haven’t done anything bad to you.”
Mosque members taught Martinez about Islam, but he stopped showing up to prayers a few months ago. They don’t know who else may have been influencing him, and worry this one man will cast shadows over the entire peaceful religion.
“We are scared that you guys might think that we might have done that, but we haven’t done that,” Rana said. “He came to us. He wanted to learn about Islam, but we didn’t teach him what to do and what not to do.”
“We want to say again and again neither our religion or us are bad people or extremists, or these kind of things,” Walker said. “We are a very loving people.”
“Islam doesn’t talk about that—to blow up something,” Russell Kajn said. “Don’t know where they get these ideas.”
They add that no one can learn all there is to know about any religion in less than a year and that they’re concerned Martinez is giving their religion a bad name. He may have left because services were led in a Pakistani language, which Martinez did not speak.
Martinez faces life in prison if convicted of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.