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.
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Although Mohamud made initial e-mail contact with an “unindicted associate” in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, that never went anywhere. Instead, it became an undercover operation with FBI agents – who’d been tipped off to the young man’s intentions – posing as individuals who could help him follow through on his stated desire to wage violent jihad by becoming “operational.”Skip to next paragraph
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Over the next several months, the undercover agents developed a relationship with Mohamud – careful to avoid anything that might later suggest that he’d been the victim of entrapment. He mentioned how he’d been thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since he was 15 years old.
He sent them parts for a detonating device – mainly from Radio Shack – and plans for the attack site and the means for avoiding capture. Once, he went to a remote site with the undercover agents to detonate a test bomb in a backpack.
At several points, the agents (wearing recording devices) pressed Mohamud on his intentions and willingness to engage in what could be the slaughter of many people, including children, at the Christmas tree event.
“You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?” an undercover FBI operative asked Mohamud. According to the affidavit, Mohamud 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.”
As the crowd gathered for the holiday tree lighting, a white van was parked for maximum impact, including a nearby light rail station. As Mohamud looked over the bomb, he pronounced it “beautiful.”
What he didn’t know was that it was not a real bomb at all. According to the government affidavit, “It consisted of six 55 gallon drums containing inert material, inert detonation cord, inert blasting caps and approximately one gallon of diesel fuel, which gave off a strong odor.”
Within a few minutes, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was under arrest, facing a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
“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, in a statement Friday night.
Said Dwight Holton, US attorney for the District of Oregon: “This defendant’s chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people – even here in Oregon – who are determined to kill Americans.”