A 19-year-old Oregon resident was charged with suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction during an attempted bombing at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia and student at Oregon State University, was arrested by the FBI and local police when he tried to detonate a van full of what he thought were explosives, but in fact, the materials were a "mock bomb" supplied by the undercover FBI agents.
Mohamud had been under surveillance since August 2009, when he contacted a person with possible terrorist ties in Pakistan, and they "[used] coded language, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad." (Mohamud also tried to contact another associate, but he apparently used the wrong email address and couldn't get in touch with him to make travel arrangements.)
A FBI agent, posing as an associate of the Pakistani contact, made contact with Mohamud in July 2010, and when they met, the Justice Department says the young man "indicated that he wanted to become 'operational.' Asked what he meant by 'operational,' Mohamud stated that he wanted to put an 'explosion' together, but needed help." Mohamud, who claimed he was thinking about jihad since he was 15 and had written for online magazine Jihad Recollections, allegedly said he wanted to bomb the annual Christmas tree event.
"You know there's going to be a lot of children there?" an FBI operative asked Mohamud. "You know there are gonna be a lot of children there?"
Mohamud allegedly responded he was looking for a "huge mass that will ... be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."
Mohamud dismissed concerns about law enforcement, explaining that, " ... It's in Oregon; and Oregon, like, you know, nobody ever thinks about," according to the affidavit.
Mohamud also allegedly told the operative, "I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured." Federal authorities said that the "threat was very real," but also say the community was never in danger.
On May 1, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, drove an explosive-filled SUV into Times Square. Shahzad allegedly got bomb-making lessons from the Pakistan Taliban; he received a life sentence in October.