MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (AP) — A Somali-born teenager plotted “a spectacular show” of terrorism for months, saying he didn’t mind that children would die if he bombed a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, according to a law-enforcement official and court documents.

He never got the chance. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested Friday in downtown Portland after using a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van, prosecutors said. It turned out to be a dummy bomb put together by FBI agents, and authorities said the public was never in danger.

The case is the latest in a string of alleged terrorist planning by U.S. citizens or residents, including a Times Square plot in which a Pakistan-born man pleaded guilty earlier this year to trying to set off a car bomb at a busy street corner.

In the Portland plot, Mohamud believed he was receiving help from a larger ring of jihadists as he communicated with undercover agents, but a law enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on a condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that no foreign terrorist organization was directing him.

The official said Mohamud planned the details, including where to park the van to hurt the most people.

“I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave dead or injured,” Mohamud said, according to the affidavit.

Thousands of people gathered Friday on a cold, clear night for the annual event at Pioneer Courthouse Square, a plaza known as “Portland’s living room.”

Just 10 minutes before Mohamud’s 5:40 p.m. arrest, babies were sitting on shoulders, and children cheered at the first appearance of Santa Claus onstage. The tree-lighting went off without a hitch.

Mohamud graduated from high school in Beaverton. He was enrolled at Oregon State University over the past year but withdrawing Oct. 6, the school said.

Mohamud was known at the Salman Al-Farisi Center in Corvallis, said Yosof Wanly, imam at the mosque. He said Mohamud was “an average university boy,” drinking the occasionalbeer with friends in fraternities.

“He had some fraternity friends,” Wanly said. “He would attend athletic (events), basketball games, whatever they are.”

The law enforcement official who spoke to the AP said agents began investigating Mohamud after receiving a tip from someone concerned about him. The official declined providing further more detail about the relationship between the two.

The FBI monitored Mohamud’s e-mail and found he was in contact with people overseas, asking how he could travel to Pakistan and join the fight for jihad, according to an FBI affidavit.
The law enforcement official said Mohamud e-mailed a friend living in Pakistan who had been a student in Oregon in 2007-2008 and been in Yemen as well.

The e-mail exchanges led the FBI to believe that Mohamud’s friend in Pakistan “had joined others involved in terrorist activities” and was inviting Mohamud to join him, according to the affidavit.

For reasons unexplained, Mohamud tried to board a flight to Kodiak, Alaska, from Portland on June 14, wasn’t allowed to board and was interviewed by the FBI, the affidavit states.

Mohamud told the FBI he wanted to earn money fishing and then travel to join “the brothers.” He said he had previously hoped to travel to Yemen but had never obtained a ticket or a visa.

On June 23, an agent e-mailed Mohamud, pretending to be affiliated with the “unindicted associate.”

The FBI’s affidavit said the friend in Pakistan referred him to another associate, but gave him an address Mohamud repeatedly tried e-mailing unsuccessfully. The official said FBI agents saw that as an opportunity and e-mailed in response, claiming to be associates of Mohamud’s friend, the former student.

The affidavit said Mohamud was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could die, and that he could back out.

But he told agents: “Since I was 15 I thought about all this,” and “It’s gonna be a fireworks show … a spectacular show.”

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. A court appearance was set for Monday.

Authorities allowed the plot to proceed to build up enough evidence to charge the suspect with attempt.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Saturday that President Barack Obama was aware of the FBI operation before Friday’s arrest. Shapiro said Obama was assured that the FBI was in full control of the operation, and the public was not in danger.

Authorities said Mohamud sent bomb components to undercover FBI agents he believed were assembling the explosive device, but the agents supplied the fake bomb that Mohamud tried to detonate twice via his phone.

The FBI affidavit said the undercover agent first met Mohamud in person on July 30 and asked what he would do for the cause of jihad, suggesting he might want to spread Islam to others, continue studies to help the cause overseas, raise money, become “operational” or become a martyr. Mohamud responded that he wanted to become “operational” but needed training, the affidavit said.

When Mohamud was asked what he meant by “operational,” he responded that he wanted to put together an explosion, the affidavit said. The undercover agent said he could introduce him to an explosives expert and asked Mohamud to research potential targets.

At a second meeting on Aug. 19 at a Portland hotel, the agent brought another undercover agent, the documents said, and Mohamud told them he had selected Pioneer Courthouse Square for the bombing.

On Nov. 4, the court documents say, Mohamud made a video in the presence of one of the undercover agents, putting on clothes he described as “Sheik Osama style:” a white robe, red and white headdress, and camouflage jacket.

He read a statement speaking of his dream of bringing “a dark day” on Americans and blaming his family for thwarting him, according to the court documents:
“To my parents who held me back from Jihad in the cause of Allah. I say to them … if you — if you make allies with the enemy, then Allah’s power … will ask you about that on the day of judgment, and nothing that you do can hold me back …”

Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove to Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.

They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.

Two Oregon Muslim leaders held a Saturday evening news conference on the front steps of Portland City Hall to condemn the alleged bomb plot.

Imam Mikal Shabazz, president of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization, and Shahriar Ahmed, president of the Bilal Mosque Association in Beaverton, said they were shocked by the plot but relieved there was never any danger to the public.

“We want to make sure that we go on record, and not just on record, but that our conviction is expressed, that we in no way, shape or form support this, no matter what the justification may be,” Shabazz said.

Ahmed added that it was very personal for him because his daughter, home from college for the holiday, had gone shopping downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Friday.
Tens of thousands of Somalis have resettled in the United States since their country plunged into lawlessness in 1991, and the U.S. has boosted aid to the country.

In August, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment naming 14 people accused of being a deadly pipeline routing money and fighters from the U.S. to al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliated group in Mohamud’s native Somalia.

FBI agent E.K. Wilson said there is no apparent connection between the bomb plot in Portland and the investigation into about 20 men who left Minneapolis to join al-Shabab in Somalia.

Officials have been working with Muslim leaders across the United States, particularly with the Somali community in Minnesota, trying to combat the radicalization.

On Saturday, Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nations and an advocate for Somalis in Minnesota, said Mohamud has a stepmother in Minneapolis. He condemned the plot and urged Somalis to cooperate with police and the FBI.

Jamal said he had spoken to two Somalis who knew Mohamud, and he was described as religious and quiet. Jamal said Mohamud is from southern Somalia.

“Everybody’s afraid, really really afraid,” Jamal said of members of Oregon’s Somali communities and elsewhere. “They’re afraid of, first of all, the label. The allegation is very serious …”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (19)
  1. Love America says:

    Oh what caring people they are! When are we going to deport all these idiots and stop allowing them into our Country? I have nothing against immigrants if they come to be Americans, and respect our laws, and do some good. I am starting to believe that NONE of them are here to become law abiding citizens, but to take down American from within!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Alejandro says:

    Ha ha ha! Way to be rational.

  3. Tim says:

    I’m with you Janna!!

  4. democracyisnotaprivilege says:

    You all talk as if you want to fundamentally change our democracy to something that is frighteningly restrictive. Restricted only to the “citizens” who fit an arbitrary distinction of what is the norm. Is this norm non-Muslim? dressed in european-style clothing? white? black but not African immigrant? You too could end up being on the outside of these distinctions. What you are all proposing in your anger is to restrict the possibility to live a free and democratic society to one individual’s definition of what stereotype of identity (racial, ethnic, cultural) is acceptable. Besides this being against the founding principles of our democracy – “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These ideas are not contingent on national or regional origin. I don’t think you realize the larger implications of your demands. What kind of society, organized by hate and fear of others, will this lead to? Will you really have a place in it?

    1. democracy says:

      And where is this society leading to now? I’m willing to accept the consequences.

  5. democracyisnotaprivilege says:

    I asked you to think about what kind of society this logic is leading to, not where is society leading us. Society leads us nowhere, we are society. The current logic of our society has led us to civil rights for blacks, asians, latinos, etc., enfranchisement for women, worker’s rights, restrictions on cruelty to animals, advocacy for human rights worldwide, among many other achievements. In fact, the treatment of women that so many of you so decry is an echo of the way women were treated in many western societies before the logic of free democracy began to chip away at old traditions. Our logic of a democracy open to all is sound and we have achieved much through it as a society. If we lose that logic, that essential code of equal opportunity and rights, we have nothing as a country. It is what keeps us together and defines the United States. Otherwise we are only a collection of fearful, solitary voices under one vague nationalist banner. Remember these old slogans and mottos: “united we fall, divided we stand” – they come in most useful in times like these when our patience and tolerance is most worn. We must stand united under the banner of our free and open democracy and the rule of just law.

  6. Don says:

    All terrorists are Muslims, EXCEPT FOR THE 94% THAT AREN’T.


  7. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

    Lets save the courts some time, and take this clown out in a van full of explosives and blow it up. It’s a win win for everyone, he gets to see Alla, and we save millions.

  8. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

    Sharia Law, If your gay you get stoned to death, if your female shut your mouth and cover your face. You gotta love these clowns, all in the name of love? whats their top clown called? Oh yes Alla, what a peace loving freak this guy is.

  9. Reagan was right says:

    I want to know who’s paying for this terrorists college? I assume he doesn’t have a job and pays taxes. He is probably getting welfare from atleast one state, probably several. Hopefully america is realizing that Somalia is not contributing anything good to the world, nothing but trouble. They draw attention to themselves, maybe it’s about time we give them some. One way ticket back to Somalia. America needs to clean house, Immigration should be a high priority. Crime rate would drop, debt would drop, and we would hear english once again.

  10. Ram says:

    Remember these agencies like Homeland Security and FBI, get billions in federal funds to find terror suspects and stop attacks, so what do they do when they can’t find one? they manufucture terrorists, by luring young or mental ill persons, giving them money and fake bombs and telling them how to carry out their plan, than when they are about to do it, they will say, they caught a terrorist.
    Its all a scheme to keep them employed and keep the billions coming from the FEDS.

  11. MNGoodGuy says:

    Learn the US criminal code mark.
    Sharia law doesn’t apply in the us…

    This county was built by immigrants, but alas the moronic tea baggers
    forget this in their line of thinking.

    This guy was an harmless idiot. It was only the FBI who helped him craft his plan…

  12. Kevin says:

    For god sakes! Stop immagrating! Let them all eat dirt in Somalia, and or the far east! Enough of these ignorant….muslims….if that bomb would have gone off….thousands of lives would have been taken! It it worth us spending our tax dollars to bring this animals over here…..support them….educate them….then watch as they try to kill us?????

  13. Ignorance must be bliss says:

    For all of you that state that there are only immigrants that are trying to destroy this country I would ask you to open your eyes. How fast do people forget other stories just because 1 was print today. Not long ago there were 2 US born women that were arrested for just about the same thing. Do you not remember Jihad Jane? The thing you have to keep in mind is that the people that want to do this type of thing are not all radical Muslims. Some of them are just confused or (to put it very blunt) just very stupid people that are looking for attention and this seems to be the outlet they choose. Instead of being so narrow minded on the religion someone has or the region that someone comes from, why don’t you stop and think that everyone has a line that when crossed will lead to stupidity and irrationality. This has no bearing on color or religion. Look at what happens in the US every day. This country has the highest murder rate of any civilized nation. So when this info is presented, would you say that we should deport all the murderers and rapists that are home grown? If so where do they go? The last question I would have is, how can you tell by looking at someone that they are going to want to destroy this country?

    1. kevin says:

      Indeed Ignorance Is Bliss…..put your sippy cup down and let the Kool Aid leave your body……Americans are begining to wake up…..I just hope its not to late…..I have to laugh…every time someone has a view point that is not Liberal….they are ignorant….stupid….tea baggers…..No more immagration…unless we immagrate Liberals out of the country……ill help you all pack…

  14. Ignorance must be bliss says:

    So on that same thought…. Liberal views are not as valid as the views of others? I love when people try to downplay Liberal views but never have a point that they stand on. It is just “that is a Liberal hippie view that makes no sense”. Instead of just saying something like this, how about you propose an original idea or thought? There is no basis to the comment other than you do not agree with what is being said. There is no rebuttal, just the same rhetoric that has been used in the last note, and the one before that. If you are going to try and break someone down because you do not agree with them, the EDITORIAL page might not be the best choice. You have just proven that you have no view of your own and are just repeating something that you heard on the news (most likely Fox) and have no points other than I am right and you are wrong. Please shed some insight on why Liberal views are wrong and state a valid point of view. Nobody said anything about Tea Party ideas did they? Then why even try and close that gap? Are you that afraid that if you say what your views are people will realize that you don’t have one at all and are just spitting out hatred or naivety? Liberals are always up for a good debate, but the problem is that nobody gives them a debate. Instead of just stating that all Liberals say other points of view “ are ignorant….stupid….tea baggers” try stating something else yourself…… Just for your information as well, you can’t immigrate people out of a country, this is called deporting them.

  15. lib says:

    It must be a thankless task to keep defending the musllims/somalis. I have worked with many in an environment where they rent. They llive very dirty and their children are not disciplined. They do NOT love this country nor do they respect our laws They have no intention of assimilating and I believe will continue to undermine our society. The local government gives the somali society great leway in all things, they don’t even have to pass the same drivers exam as the rest of us and most are all sec. 8 and on medicaide, receive free education and the prayer rooms allowed in these colleges are only used to plot our destruction.. We must use the power of our vote to elect officials that will require the muslim/somali population obey our laws and pay their own way.

  16. Dan French says:

    THESE are the people that will victimize your friends and family. Criminals like these. Reptiles with no control over their mental health. You’re going after the wrong person and always have been.

    Let’s see you do something. 612-208-7342 Skype: nirvgorilla

    Oh, that’s right, I’m not some unconscious woman you can sexually assault. waiting to hear that live. Dial it, grandpa. Man up. People really hate living in reality.

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