Portland Terror Suspect Recruited by Unidentified Operative; Says He Wasn’t the Only One

By Matt Cover | November 30, 2010 | 11:45 AM EST

This image released on Nov. 27, 2010 by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office shows 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, suspected of plotting to detonate a truck bomb during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. (AP Photo/Mauthnomah County Sheriff's Office)

(CNSNews.com) - Mohamed Osman Mohamud – the teenage terror suspect arrested by the FBI last week after he attempted to detonate a truck bomb in Portland – apparently was recruited by an unidentified terrorist operative active in the United States.

The revelation comes from the criminal complaint filed by the FBI. The terror operative, identified only as Unindicted Associate 1 (UA1), was in regular email contact with Mohamud from computers located in both Yemen and the frontier region of Pakistan, areas known to have active al-Qaeda cells.

UA1, whom the FBI refused to talk about when contacted by CNSNews.com, was a student in the United States from August 2007 to July 2008, according to the criminal complaint. According to a law enforcement source cited by the Associated Press, UA1 studied in Oregon, where Mohamud has lived since immigrating to the U.S. from Somalia with his family in 1991.

The affidavit does not make clear whether Mohamud met UA1 in Oregon or learned of him after the unidentified operative had left the country. What the affidavit does reveal is that a year after UA1 ceased being a student, he was contacting Mohamud via email about traveling to the Middle East to become a terrorist.

In August 2009, UA1 sent Mohamud information about a Muslim religious school in Yemen. The FBI determined that UA1 sent the email from a computer in that same country.

By December 2009, UA1 revealed to Mohamud that he had made it to Pakistan and that if the teenager wanted, the anonymous terrorist could assist him in making the trip as well. Speaking in coded language the FBI said was common among Islamist terrorists, UA1 and Mohamud discussed the possibility of Mohamud making the journey overseas to become a jihadist.

“It’s me [UA1], I made it to OMRA (praise be to God) if you want to come there’s a bro that will contact you about the proper paperwork you need to come… I can’t go online for a while. Hope to see you soon.”

“OMRA” according to the FBI refers to the Ka’bah, the sacred shrine at the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islamist terrorists often use Islamic holy sites as code words when discussing their plans.

The email UA1 sent to Mohamud mentioning that he too could travel overseas was sent from the frontier region of Pakistan – not Saudi Arabia – a region known as a safe haven and training ground for al Qaeda, according to the FBI.

On December 12, 2009, UA1 sent more information to Mohamud, who had indicated that he “always wanted to see the ka’bah” – a phrase the FBI believed was Mohamud’s affirmation that he wanted to travel overseas for terrorist training.

UA1 sent Mohamud the email address and password for an email account that Mohamud could use to contact another terrorist – identified in the complaint as Unindicted Associate 2 (UA2) – who would help arrange for the young man to travel to Pakistan for training.

Mohamud tried to contact UA2 as well, but failed when he mistakenly replied to a different email address than the one given to him by UA1.

The FBI affidavit does not say whether Mohamud tried to contact either UA1 or UA2 again, mentioning only that Mohamud received a message that his email to UA2 was undeliverable.

The affidavit also omits any mention of how Mohamud first came into contact with UA1. Mohamud, who grew up outside Portland, attended Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon from fall of 2009 until he dropped out in October 2010. UA1, however, ceased being a student in America in July 2008.

The affidavit also reveals that Mohamud submitted articles to an extremist publication – Inspire – published by al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen. The affidavit did not indicate whether UA1 discovered Mohamud through this publication.

The affidavit does show that Mohamud was not the only American Muslim being recruited by UA1. It is not clear who the other recruits were, but Mohamud refers to them as “us.”

According to the complaint, Mohamud told undercover FBI agents that he tried to travel to Pakistan in 2009 while on holiday in Britain. He was unable to obtain a visa because he had possessed a passport for less than six months.

Mohamud told the FBI that most of the other recruits had already managed to travel overseas.

“I went there [Britain] with family but I, my intention was to, I was trying to get a visa to Pakistan. And [UA1] was there at that time, I was trying to set something up, I was close, you know, but it didn’t work out ‘cause my passport had not been valid for six months…so I couldn’t get the visa.

“UA1 was trying to get all of us to go to Yemen and I was telling everybody ‘Let’s go, let’s go there y’know.’ I tried like three times to go to jihad.”