The annual Christmas tree lighting in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square will likely never be quite the same after what happened this year. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born, 19 year-old student from Oregon State University attempted to detonate what he believed was a vehicle bomb amidst the hundreds of spectators.
Monday he’ll be in federal court facing charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Mohamud had been followed for over a year by FBI agents. During that time, according to court documents, he admitted his devotion to violent jihad and made plans to attack people “in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.” Agents say the crowd at Pioneer Courthouse Square was never in real danger this weekend — the bomb was a fake. He did not know that. According to Dwight Holton, the interim U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Mohamud is:
Someone who, over and over again, was given the opportunity, and frankly discouraged by the undercover officers, who repeatedly presented the consequences of what he wanted to do, and yet he insisted this was exactly what he wanted to do, and pressed forward.
The Somali community is reacting with strong condemation of any violence. In a press release today they said:
We call on all Somali-American community leaders to take the Somali youth issue very seriously. This and other recent incidents across the country should be a wake-up call for all of us to pay greater attention to our young people. We are asking Somali-American leaders as well as the federal, state, and municipal governments to work together to save our at-risk youth.
Were you at the tree-lighting on Friday? What’s your reaction to this event?
- April Baer: reporter, OPB News
- Chris Lehman: Salem correspondent for the Northwest News Network and Capitol Currents blogger
- Omar Mohamed: president of the Oregon State University Muslim Student Association
- Kayse Jama: founder of the Center for Intercultural Organizing
- Tom Hastings: director of Peace and Nonviolence Studies at Portland State University