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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Somali teenager 'tried to set off carbomb in US'

A Somali teenager has been arrested on suspicion of trying to set off a carbomb in the United States, police said on Saturday.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud was under FBI surveillance when he allegedly tried to set off the bomb

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was held after he attempted to detonate what he believed was an explosives-laden van at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. However, undercover FBI agents had been monitoring his plans and had ensured that the "bomb" was in fact incapable of exploding.

Mohamud, a naturalised US citizen of Somali descent, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Portland police around 5:40 pm Friday (0040 GMT Saturday).

"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. "At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack."

Court documents showed that since the summer of 2009, Mohamud had been in email contact with a suspected terrorist in Pakistan's lawless northwest frontier province, currently a haven for al Qaeda cells. After discussing the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to engage in jihad, or holy war, the accomplice allegedly gave Mohamud contact details of a terrorist cell overseas with whom the plot would be hatched.

Repeated attempts by Mohamud to contact his would-be partners failed, and then last June, an FBI undercover agent contacted Mohamud via email pretending to be an associate of his Pakistani contact.

At a meeting in Portland a month later, Mohamud told the FBI operative that he had written articles that were published in "Jihad Recollections," an online magazine that advocated violence against non-Muslims.

He later told the agents that he had wanted to conduct a holy war against "infidels" since the age of 15, and that he had identified the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square as a good target.

FBI operatives apparently cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of this plan, noting that there would be many children at the event. But Mohamud responded that he was looking for a "huge mass that will ... be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays," the court documents said.

Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991, has been identified as a source of major concern by Western security agencies fighting Islamic extremism. They have warned that members of the Somali diaspora living in north America and Europe may be recruited by al Qaeda to carry out attacks on Western soil.


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