Alleged Christmas Tree Bomber Said He Wanted to Kill Americans While ‘They Were With Their Families Celebrating the Holidays,’ Says Affidavit

By Terence P. Jeffrey | November 27, 2010 | 3:41 PM EST

A Christmas tree was lit on Pioneer Courthouse square in Portland, Ore., on Friday night. A 19-year-old legal immigrant from Somalia, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would blow up an explosive-laden van at this scene, according to federal prosecutors. (Associated Press Photo)

( - Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Oregon State student who is a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen, told undercover FBI agents that he wanted to detonate a bomb near Pioneer Square in Portland, Ore., during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree there on Friday because he wanted to kill Americans while “they were with their families celebrating the holidays,” according to an FBI affidavit.

Mohamud allegedly made the statement in a video- and audio-taped conversation he had with two undercover FBI agents on Aug. 19 of this year in a Portland, Ore., hotel room.

Parts of a transcript of the conversation were included in an affidavit that FBI Special Agent Ryan Dwyer filed in the U.S. District Court in Oregon on Friday, Nov. 26.

Mohamud, according to the affidavit, explained to the undercover agents why he wanted to specifically target Pioneer Square while they were lighting the Christmas tree.

“Basically it’s [Pioneer Square] like, Portland is like the main meeting when they have events everybody comes up there you know?” the affidavit quotes Mohamud as saying. “So they have a, on the 26th of November … they have a Christmas lighting and some 25,000 people that come. You know the streets are packed. I thought, I thought if you could help me you know to have a, to have you know a truck [if God will], you know so that they could you know refrain. If you understand what I’m saying to you?”

The affidavit goes on to say that one of the undercover FBI agents then told Mohamud: “[B]ut um, this, this is again, what’s in your heart? So I’m just  bringing it to your mind? You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?”

“Yeah I mean that’s what I’m looking for,” said Mohumad, according to the affidavit.

“For kids?’ asked an undercover FBI agent.

“No, just for, in general just a huge mass that will, you know like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holiday. And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women … so when they hear all these families were killed in such a such a city they’ll say you know what your actions you know they will stop you know. And it’s not fair they should do that to people and not feeling it. The sheikh Usma you know (UI) he said [I swear to Allah the Great], you he swore to Allah you know, [that America will not even dream of security …]”

When one of the undercover FBI agents asked Mohamud about law enforcement at the event, Mohamud, according to the affidavit, expressed his belief that they would not expect such an attack in Portland, Ore.

“Is that … in Portland? Not really,” said Mohamud, according to the affidavit. “They don’t see it as a place where anything will happen. People say you know, why, anybody want to do something in Portland, you know. It’s on the west coast, it’s in Oregon; and Oregon’s like you know, nobody ever thinks about it. If we’re like LA or something that’s different so ….”

In fact, in 2002, federal authorities shutdown the so-called Portland Seven terrorist cell, culminating an investigation that began with alert local law enforcement in Oregon.

In the Christmas-tree-lighting case, court-authorized surveillance of Mohamud, according to the FBI affidavit, showed that he was in contact via email with an unindicted associate who was first in Yemen in August 2009 and then was in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan in December 2009. An undercover FBI agent first contacted Mohamud in June 2010, posing as someone “affiliated” with Mohamud’s unindicted associate in Pakistan.

The van that Mohamud allegedly attempted to detonate at the Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony at Pioneer Square on Friday had been loaded with a fake bomb by the FBI.