Friday 19 January 2018

Police sting foils bomb plot at Christmas lights ceremony

WILLIAM McCALL in Portland

Undercover agents stopped a Somali-born teenager from blowing up a van full of explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, US federal authorities said. The explosives were duds supplied by the agents as part of a sting operation and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5.40pm, just after he dialled a mobile phone that he allegedly thought would detonate the explosives but instead brought federal agents and Portland police swooping down on him.

Yelling "Allahu Akbar!" -- Arabic for "God is great!" -- Mr Mohamud tried to kick agents and police as they closed in, according to prosecutors.

"The threat was very real," said Arthur Balizan, FBI special agent. "Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale."

Mr Mohamud, a naturalised US citizen living in Corvallis, Oregon, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled for a court appearance tomorrow.

There was no word from authorities if the suspect had any ties to other Americans recently accused of trying to carry out attacks on US soil, including alleged efforts in May by a Pakistan-born man to set off a car bomb near Times Square or another Pakistan-born Virginia resident accused last month of being part of a bomb plot to kill commuters.

US Attorney Dwight Holton released federal court documents to the media that showed the sting operation began in June after an undercover agent learned that Mr Mohamud had been in regular email contact with an "unindicated associate" in Pakistan's northwest, a frontier region where Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents are strong.

Last June an FBI agent contacted Mr Mohamud "under the guise of being affiliated with the first associate". Mr Mohamud and the agent met in Portland on July 30 where they "discussed violent jihad", prosecutors said.

Sunday Independent

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