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Saturday, November 27, 2010

FBI Stops Portland Bomb Plot

NewsCore - A Somalia-born US citizen who allegedly wanted to wage "a holy war" was arrested after attempting to detonate a bomb in Portland moments before the city's annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony Friday night.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, of Corvallis, was arrested at 5:40pm local time in Pioneer Courthouse Square by FBI agents, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice.

He had driven a van to the crowded landmark, parked and tried to detonate a bomb.

The supposed explosive was a dummy, however, that had been supplied to him by FBI operatives.

"The device was in fact inert, and the public was never in danger," the US Attorney's Office said.

Oregon US Attorney Dwight Holton said: "This defendant's chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people -- even here in Oregon -- who are determined to kill Americans. The good work of law enforcement protected Oregonians in this case -- and we have no reason to believe there is any continuing threat arising from this case."

Mohamud is accused of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and will make his first appearance in US District Court in Portland on Monday.

“The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack.”

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in August 2009, Mohamud made contact via email with a suspected terrorist in Pakistan's northwest tribal area. Mohamud allegedly planned initially to travel to Pakistan "to engage in violent jihad."

In the months that followed, Mohamud allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to contact a second suspected terrorist. At this point an FBI undercover operative made email contact with Mohamud claining to be an associate of the first suspected terrorist. A meeting followed in Portland in July, according to the affidavit, at which Mohamud indicated he wanted to become “operational” and put an “explosion” together, but needed help.

At this meeting, Mohamud told the FBI undercover operative that he had written articles that were published in "Jihad Recollections", an online magazine that advocated violence against non-Muslims.

He later told undercover FBI operatives that he had been thinking of conducting a holy war against infidels since the age of 15 and that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 26, 2010.

FBI operatives cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of this plan, noting that there would be many children at the event. But Mohamud pressed on with the plan.

“You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?” an undercover FBI operative asked him. Mohamud reportedly responded that he was looking for a “huge mass that will ... be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.” Further discussing the attack, Mohamud allegedly stated, “... it’s in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”

In the following months, Mohamud identified a location to place the bomb and mailed bomb components to the undercover FBI operatives, who he believed were assembling the device. He also mailed them passport photos, as part of a plan to help him sneak out of the country after the attack, the affidavit shows.

Earlier this month, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote location in Lincoln County, Oregon where they detonated a bomb concealed in a backpack as a rehearsal of the upcoming attack.

"I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured." Mohamud said of the Christmas tree ceremony, according to the documents.

That same day, he recorded a video, in which he read a written statement that offered a rationale for his bomb attack.

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