The FBI thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city’s annual tree-lighting Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.
A Corvallis man, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square at Southwest Yamhill Street and Sixth Avenue and attempted to detonate it.
However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, was arrested at 5:42 p.m., 18 minutes before the tree lighting was to occur, on an accusation of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored for months as his alleged bomb plot developed.
“The device was in fact inert, and the public was never in danger,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The investigation involved the FBI, Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau, Corvallis Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Mohamud will appear in U.S. District Court in Portland on Monday.
“This defendant’s chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people — even here in Oregon — who are determined to kill Americans,” said Oregon U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. “The good work of law enforcement protected Oregonians in this case — and we have no reason to believe there is any continuing threat arising from this case.
It is a chilling reminder…that we shouldn’t be importing Somali Muslims in to the United States.
More from AP, Oregon bomb-plot suspect wanted ‘spectacular show’:
The FBI affidavit says the undercover agent first met Mohamud in person on July 30 and asked what he would do for the cause of jihad. The agent suggested that Mohamud might want to spread Islam to others, continue his studies to help the cause overseas, raise money, and become a martyr or put together an explosion but didn’t know how and needed training, the affidavit said.
The undercover agent said he could introduce him to an explosives expert and asked Mohamud to research potential targets.
At a second meeting on Aug. 19 at a Portland hotel, the agent brought a second undercover agent, the documents say, and Mohamud told them he had selected Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square for the bombing.
On Nov. 4, the court documents say, Mohamud made a video in the presence of one of the undercover agents, putting on clothes he described as “Sheik Osama style:” a white robe, red and white headdress, and camouflage jacket.
He read a statement speaking of his dream of bringing “a dark day” on Americans and blaming his family for thwarting him, according to the court documents:
“To my parents who held me back from Jihad in the cause of Allah. I say to them … if you — if you make allies with the enemy, then Allah’s power … will ask you about that on the day of judgment, and nothing that you do can hold me back …”
Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove to downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.
They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.