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Feds: Somali-born teen plotted car-bombing in Oregon

In an undercover sting operation at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested dialing a cell phone that he thought would set off the blast.

By William MccallAssociated Press / November 27, 2010

A crowd watches as the tree is lit on Pioneer Courthouse square Friday night in Portland, Oregon. Somali-born teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would blow up a van laden with explosives.

Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian/AP


Portland, Ore.

Undercover agents in a sting operation stopped a Somali-born teenager from blowing up a van full of explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon, federal authorities said. The bomb was a dud supplied by the agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

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Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. Friday just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would set off the blast but instead brought federal agents and police swooping down on him.

Yelling "Allahu Akbar!" – Arabic for "God is great!" – Mohamud tried to kick agents and police after he was taken into custody, according to prosecutors.

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"The threat was very real," said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. "Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale."

The FBI affidavit that outlined the investigation alleges that Mohamud planned the attack for months, at one point mailing bomb components to FBI operatives, whom he believed were assembling the device.

It said Mohamud was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could be killed, 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 living in Corvallis, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. Few details were available about him late Friday.

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

Officials didn't say if the suspect had any ties to other Americans recently accused of trying to carry out attacks on U.S. soil, including alleged efforts in May by a Pakistan-born man to set off a car bomb near Times Square or another Pakistan-born Virginia resident accused last month in a bomb plot to kill commuters.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton released federal court documents to The Associated Press and the Oregonian newspaper that show the sting operation began in June after an undercover agent learned that Mohamud had been in regular e-mail contact with an "unindicted associate" in Pakistan's northwest, a frontier region where Al Qaida and Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents are strong.

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