WASHINGTON (AP) — The teenager accused of attempting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., was acting on his own initiative and not at the direction of any foreign terrorist organization, a law enforcement official said Saturday.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud hatched the plan on his own to use a cell phone to detonate what he believed was an explosive-filled van at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on a condition of anonymity.
The official said Mohamud was very committed to the plot and alone planned the details, including where to park the van for the maximum number of casualties. Authorities say Mohamud sent bomb components to undercover FBI agents who he believed were assembling the explosive device, but the agents supplied a fake that Mohamud tried to detonate twice via his phone.
The official said agents began investigating Mohamud after receiving a tip from someone who was concerned about the teenager. The official declined to provide any more detail about the relationship between Mohamud and that source.
The FBI monitored Mohamud's e-mail. They found that he was in e-mail contact with people overseas and was asking how he could travel to Pakistan and join the fight for jihad, according to an FBI affidavit.
Mohamud, a student at Oregon State University, e-mailed a friend living in Pakistan who had been a student in Oregon in 2007-2008, according to the official. The FBI's affidavit says the friend in Pakistan referred him to another associate, but gave him an invalid e-mail address that Mohamud tried repeatedly to use unsuccessfully. The official said FBI agents saw that as an opportunity and e-mailed Mohamud in response, claiming to be associates of his friend, the former student.
The friend Mohamud was e-mailing was in Pakistan's northwest frontier province, an area known to harbor terrorists, but the law enforcement official said there is no indication that any foreign terrorist group was behind the plot.