FBI officials said a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia attempted to detonate a bomb during a tree lighting in downtown Portland, Ore., the day after Thanksgiving — though the bomb was a fake, created by FBI agents posing as his accomplice.
Though officials said the crowds at the packed tree lighting were never in any danger, “The threat was very real,” Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, told the Los Angeles Times. “Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale.”
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was, at the time, a 19-year-old student at Oregon State University, told FBI agents posing as Al Qaeda operatives in August that he wanted to place a bomb during the packed annual ceremony. (The festive ceremony took place on the busiest shopping day of the year and usually brings thousands of people to the plaza.)
According to the Times, Mohamud was arrested after he attempted to detonate the fake bomb — made of drums, diesel fuel and a large box of screws — by dialing his cell phone. The phony explosives were hidden in a white van parked near the plaza.
Mohamud has been charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. He will appear in court on Monday, according to FBI officials.