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Oregon bomb-plot suspect wanted ‘spectacular show’
PORTLAND, Ore. (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. Authorities said Mohamud was acting alone.
The alleged plot followed a string of terrorist attack 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 bustling street corner. Last month, another Pakistan-born Virginia resident was accused in a bomb plot to kill commuters.
In the Portland plot, Mohamud was not being directed by any foreign terrorist organization, according to a law-enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on a condition of anonymity.
The official said Mohamud was very committed to the plot and planned the details alone, 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.
“It’s in Oregon, and Oregon, like you know, nobody ever thinks about it,” the suspect told an agent in one discussion.
Thousands of people had gathered Friday on a cold, clear night for the annual event at Pioneer Courthouse Square, a plaza often referred to as “Portland’s living room” because of its popularity.
Just 10 minutes before Mohamud’s 5:40 p.m. arrest, the lighting ceremony began. Babies sat on shoulders, and children cheered at the first appearance of Santa Claus onstage.
The tree-lighting on the bricks of the plaza went off without a hitch just as the arrest was taking place.
Mohamud, who grew up in Beaverton, was a former student at Oregon State University. He had been enrolled in courses from late 2009 until Oct. 6 before withdrawing, said Oregon State University spokesman Todd Simmons.
The law-enforcement official who spoke to the AP on Saturday said agents began investigating Mohamud after receiving a tip from someone who was concerned about the teenager. The official declined to provide any more detail about the relationship between Mohamud and that source.
For reasons that have not been explained, 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 had previously hoped to travel to Yemen, that he knew someone there, but had never obtained a ticket a visa.
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