Oregon is home to many terror suspects

Oregon is home to many terror suspects »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Friday night's alleged thwarted bomb plot at Pioneer Square is far from the first terror-related news out of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

But why Oregon and surrounding areas?

If you're to believe the reported words of the teen fingered in Friday's Christmas-tree lighting ceremony bomb plot, it's because "...it's in Oregon and Oregon ... nobody ever thinks about it."

Indeed, in a Saturday interview with KATU News, a local leader with "Muslims for Peace" says he's concerned radical jihadists could be trying to recruit young people from Oregon.

"Thankfully the FBI stopped [Friday's attempted attack]," said Harris Zafar with the Portland group Muslims for Peace. "But is this a growing trend now that we still don't know about? Even in Oregon, youth ... are becoming radicalized."

That's why we are now taking a look, back to 1984, to review Oregon's terror-related cases that made international headlines.

Bio-terrorism: In 1984, Oregon played host to the largest bio-terror attack in U.S. history. That's when followers of the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh poisoned salad bars in The Dalles, making 750 people sick in an attempt to sway an election. Rajneesh was deported as part of a plea bargain, and died in India in 1990.

Cyber-terrorism: The author of “Assassination Politics,” an Internet essay offering killers for government officials, is tracked down by federal authorities. The unemployed chemist, James Dalton Bell, was found at his Vancouver, Wash., home with "highly toxic chemicals, the makings for explosives and instructions for making Molotov cocktails, fertilizer bombs and other weapons," ABC News reported.

In late 1997 a federal judge ordered that Bell would have no computers or Internet access, no contact with militia groups and no contact within 200 yards from the homes of government officials.
In 2001, Bell was dubbed "[o]ne of the Internet's most famous essayists" and "the world's most notorious crypto-convict" by "Wired" magazine.

Bell admitted to setting off a stink bomb at a local Internal Revenue Service office and authoring “Assassination Politics,” an Internet essay purportedly offering to hire killers to murder officials.

His sentence expired December 2009 but, due to a parole violation, he is now imprisoned at a medium-security center in Sheridan, Ore. – 90 miles south of Portland. He is due for release March 12, 2012.

Terror camps:
 In 1999, militants tried to set up a weapons training camp outside the southeastern Oregon town of Bly. They said they picked Oregon because the hills near Bly resemble the hills in Afghanistan.

Eco-terrorism: In 2000, Eugene resident and political activist Jeffrey "Free" Luers set fire to three SUVs at a Eugene Chevrolet dealership as "a protest against excessive consumption and global warming," according to published reports. He was sentenced to 22+ years and, after an appeal, was released from prison Dec. 16, 2009.

A year later, in April 2001, three Ross Island Sand & Gravel concrete trucks were torched, followed in May by two Schoppert logging trucks. Portland resident and environmentalist Tre Arrow was named as the mastermind behind those attacks. Previous to that he had become known for his 11-day stunt perching on a 9-inch ledge outside the office window of the Regional Supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service in an effort to save the Eagle Creek, Ore., forests.

Arrow was arrested after he fled to Canada, and remained incarcerated in either Canada or the U.S. from March 2004 to June 2009. The following statement is posted at trearrow.org: "...Tre came to Canada hoping to escape persecution in the United States. This became Tre's only option when his life in Portland, Oregon was unjustly turned upside down." He continues to deny any connection to the attack.

The Portland Seven: On Sept. 29, 2001, a Skamania County sheriff's deputy comes across men in Arab-style robes and headgear firing weapons in a southwest Washington gravel pit. These four men, and three others, became known as the "Portland Seven," a group of local Muslims accused of plotting to kill American troops in Afghanistan. They were convicted after trying to travel to Afghanistan.

The Portland Seven was made up of Patrice Ford, Jeffry Battle, Ahmed Bilal, Habis Abdulla al Soub, October Lewis, Muhammad Bilal and Mahel "Mike" Hawash. Abdulla al Soub later died fighting in Afghanistan.

On Oct. 4, 2002, Ford, Battle and Lewis are arrested in Portland and Muhammad Bilal was arrested in Dearborn, Mich. Soon after Ahmed Bilal turns himself into Malaysian authorities.

In 2003 Hawash was arrested and charged with trying to help al-Qaeda troops and the Taliban fight American soldiers. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to testify against others. A few months later the Bilal brothers pleaded guilty to gun charges and conspiracy to fight against U.S. troops. Muhammad Bilal agreed to serve 8 to 14 years and Ahmed agreed to 10 to 14 years. They agree to cooperate against other defendants.

In September and October 2003, Lewis then pleaded guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to three years. Hawash pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to up to seven years. Ford and Battle pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to terms of 18 years.

Spain train bombing: On March 11, 2004, terrorists blew up commuter trains in Madrid in an attack that killed 191 people. Two months later a Portland lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, was falsely detained as a
material witness based on what is said to be his fingerprint on a bag of detonators. He reportedly was a regular worshiper at a Beaverton mosque prior to his arrest.

It took 14 days before Spanish authorities came forward to say the print came from an Algerian citizen, and not the Coos Bay-born Mayfield. Mayfield received an apology and a $2 million settlement from the federal government. An initial ruling also declared some provisions of the PATRIOT Act unconstitutional but the United States government appealed and the ruling was overturned.

Soldier financing: In 2004 an organization in Ashland, a town known for its Shakespearean festival, was accused of raising money for a Saudi charity with direct links to Osama Bin Laden. The co-founder of the Ashland group, Pete Seda, has Saudi Arabian ties. His group, known as the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, closed more than three years ago after alleging that the government tapped its telephone calls without court approval.

The foundation sued the government for wiretapping in 2004, after the Treasury Department "accidentally" turned over the documents showing the call monitoring. The Treasury Department shut down the Ashland branch in 2004 and designated it a supporter of terrorism. However, the organization pressed on and in March this case marked the fall of the Bush administration's warrant-less wiretapping program. (See "Bush wire-tapping declared illegal after Ashland case.")

The government's witness in the case against at case is a former Al-Haramain worker in Ashland. He told the Associated Press in 2007 that the charity promoted "radical Islamic doctrine by distributing the 'noble Quran' to U.S. prison inmates."

The trial started Aug. 30 in Eugene. Seda was found guilty on Nov. 10, 2010, of tax and conspiracy charges related to donations he said were intended for refugees – that the government apparently proved instead went to soldiers. Seda's defense attorney told The Register-Guard that he pledged to appeal the case “to the highest court in the land, if need be.”

Bank bombing: In December 2008, a bomb left outside a bank in Woodburn, Ore., ended up killing two law enforcement officers, taking the leg of another officer and injuring at least one bank teller when the bomb was brought inside the bank by law enforcement for dismantling.

A father and son from Salem, Ore. – Bruce Turnidge and his son Joshua Turnidge – were charged with aggravated murder and their trial began Sept. 29, 2010, in Salem. A verdict had yet to be reached as of Nov. 29, 2010. Witnesses at their trial say the two expressed anti-government sentiment and cheered the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The atomic bomb: This last entry comes as an aside. It is not a terrorist attack. Instead it was an act of government-approved war – developed in the 1940s with the help of mathematician and former Camas High School student Phyllis Cady Johnson of Clark County, Wash. In August 1945, the bomb she helped oversee went off in Hiroshima – signaling the beginning of the end of World War II and the dawn of the atomic era.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 70,000 people died as a result of the atomic bomb's initial blast, heat and radiation effects in Hiroshimi. This included about 20 American airmen being held as prisoners in the city. An estimated 30,000 died within subsequent years from continued radiation effects. Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing up to 70,000 more.

Johnson died in Vancouver this year at the age of 88. Read further details from our Vancouver news partner, The Columbian.

- The headings in burgundy represent items that were added after the initial publication of this piece.


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