Agence France Presse
SAN FRANCISCO: US law enforcement agencies today thwarted an attempt to blow up a car bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, and arrested the suspected bomber, officials said.
The Justice Department identified the chief suspect as 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud of the town of Corvallis, a naturalized US citizen of Somali descent.
Mohamud was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Portland police after he attempted to remotely detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, officials said. But the device was in fact a fake supplied by the FBI, they added. “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, a special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon.
According to court documents, in August 2009, Mohamud was in email contact with an accomplice overseas who is believed to be involved in terrorist activities.
In December 2009, while the accomplice was located in a northwest frontier province of Pakistan, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in jihad. This man allegedly referred Mohamud to a second conspirator overseas and provided Mohamud with a name and email address to facilitate the plot, according to the court documents.
In June, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via email under the guise of being an associate of his Pakistani contact. Mohamud and the FBI undercover operative then agreed to meet in Portland in July.