More details have emerged about the accused 19-year-old Oregon man who had tried to travel to Kodiak for a summer job before being caught in an elaborate FBI sting where he allegedly tried to set off what he thought was a van full of explosives in downtown Portland.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted he faces life in prison.
The local twist is that weeks before he was approached by undercover agents posing as Jihadists, the Oregon State University student had tried, but failed, to board a flight to Kodiak. He later allegedly told agents he suspected he was on the federal no fly list. He also allegedly said he had wanted to earn money in Alaska for international travel.
Then several weeks ago Mohamud turned up at a Portland house party thrown by a group of young people from Kodiak. There he met 21-year-old Mariel Ellingson, a Kodiak High School grad now studying cosmetology in Portland. She described him as soft-spoken and polite and expressing his desire to travel to Kodiak for work.
(mohamud-kodiak 1 :23 “We were having … kinda bizarre.”)
The FBI accuses him of trying to orchestrate a bombing at the Portland’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. The event attracts thousands of people on Black Friday and is a major downtown event in the city, says Ellingson.
(mohamud-kodiak 2 :19 “The Christmas Tree … town was down here.”)
He allegedly told undercover agents he hoped for massive carnage in retribution to civilians killed by U.S. forces in Muslim countries. Ellingson said she and her friends are in disbelief after learning about the alleged plot.
(mohamud-kodiak 3 :14 “You definitely … found out — for sure.”)
Oregon’s Muslim community is bracing itself against a violent backlash in the wake of the allegations of the plot. A Mosque in Mohamud’s hometown of Corvallis was set alight early Sunday and the FBI is investigating and offering a $10,000 reward for the arrest of those responsible. Ellingson said the city’s Muslims are working to spread a message of peace and tolerance as news of the alleged plot spreads.
(mohamud-kodiak 4 :47 “There are a lot of … talking about it – for sure.”)
At a court appearance Monday, Mohamud’s lawyers accused the government of illegal entrapment. A trial is set for February 7. In an interview with The Associated Press U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rejected that claim and said that suspect had “chose at every step to continue” with the plot.