The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon was a delightful affair this year. Hundreds of happy families gathered around the 75-foot tree provided by a local lumber company, and enjoyed a sing-a-long with the Pacific Youth Choir, on what the Pioneer Courthouse website describes as “one of the busiest and most festive days in downtown Portland.”
Then a Somali-born jihadi detonated a truck bomb in their midst.
The bomb didn’t go off, because it was a fake, provided by FBI agents in an incredibly thorough sting operation. The official charge against him is “suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction,” and you’ll read a lot of news reports saying he “attempted” to detonate a bomb in the middle of that crowd. He didn’t “attempt” it. He made a cell phone call he thought would cook the bomb off, in what he had previously told undercover agents would be a “spectacular fireworks show.” In fact, he made the phone call twice. He thought there were six 55-gallon drums full of explosives on the other end of those phone calls. He screamed “Allahu Akhbar!” as agents took him into custody.
The bomber, 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, popped up on the FBI’s radar months ago, when he began corresponding by email with an “unindicted associate” in the region of Pakistan controlled by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Hey, remember when liberals went nuts over the idea of having law enforcement monitor email and phone communication with known terrorists? It was a big story back in the Bush years. Good thing they didn’t get their way, or we’d be using dental records to identify dead children in Portland right now.
Mohamud knew exactly what he was doing. CNN reports that when undercover agents told him the Christmas tree ceremony would be packed with children, he said he was looking for “a huge mass that will… be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays... I want whoever is attending that event to leave either dead or injured.” He liked the idea of attacking in Oregon because “nobody ever thinks about it.” We should think about it, as Michelle Malkin reminds us of the “Portland 7,” a group of Muslims indicted for providing material support and resources to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
This is the third time an FBI sting operation has nabbed a jihadi bomber in the past year. Last month it was Faroque Ahmed of Virginia, who was planning to bomb the Metro subway system in Washington, D.C. In September 2009, Hosam Smadi was taken down by the FBI in Dallas after dialing a cell phone number he thought would detonate a bomb in the parking garage of a 60-story building. There was also the Times Square bombing, perpetrated by Faisal Shazhad, who managed to detonate a real bomb that malfunctioned.
The Associated Press reports the Somali foreign ministry has condemned the Portland plot, and urged Somalis to cooperate with U.S. authorities to thwart further attacks. “Talk to them and tell them what you know so we can all be safe,” said Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nations. As the AP notes Jamal’s government is “holed up” in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, while Islamist insurgents control “much of the country’s southern and central region.” Tens of thousands of Somalis have resettled in the United States since the 1990s.
Given the magnitude of the evidence against him, and the length of the FBI operation, we can hope Mohamed Osman Mohamud will be convicted of something more than conspiracy to commit property damage, as with the jihadi bomber who skated out of a New York city courtroom weeks ago after preparing a bomb that killed over 200 people at embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Congratulations and sincere appreciation to the FBI for a job well done. Let’s hope the prosecutors can finish what they started.