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Mohamed Osman Mohamud: The Somali teen who wanted to bomb Portland

Authorities say Mohamed Osman Mohamud acted alone in trying to bomb a Christmas tree lighting event in Portland, Ore. Details about the Somali-born teen’s life are now emerging.

By Staff writer / November 28, 2010

A day after the attempted car-bombing of a city-wide Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., workers dissassemble staging and families visit the iconic tree.

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[UPDATE: The Associated Press reported Sunday that an arson fire had occurred at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Ore., the occasional place of worship of Mohamed Osman Mohamud. The fire on Sunday was contained to one room, burning 80 percent of the center's office, the AP reported. The worship areas were untouched, and no injuries were reported.]

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Friends and neighbors called him “Mo.” He thought of himself as a rapper. After high school, he signed up for classes at Oregon State University in Corvallis (although not for credit), dropped out, then started classes again. He was a Muslim, although not particularly religious.

From all appearances, Mohamed Osman Mohamud – born in Mogadishu, Somalia, but brought to the United States when he was 5 years old – was a typical teenager in Beaverton, Ore., near Portland.

But when the slim young man was wrestled into a van by FBI and other law enforcement officers – shouting “Allahu Akhbar” as he kicked at the agents who’d arrested him – it was clear he was not.

IN PICTURES: American Jihadis

A few minutes earlier, Mr. Mohamud thought he was about to explode a bomb in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square – he’d picked the site himself for what he assumed would be “a spectacular show” – where thousands of families had gathered for the traditional Christmas tree lighting.

Working with men he believed were associates in his terrorist plot, he had said earlier: “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured.” He seemed giddy with excitement as he punched the buttons on a cellphone he thought would detonate a van packed with explosives.

Mohamud was arrested Friday night, and he’s due to appear in federal court in Portland Monday to face charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

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