Locals in shock over Christmas-tree bombing plot

Locals in shock over Christmas-tree bombing plot

PORTLAND, Ore. – The story mimics one a month ago in Virginia and a year ago in Dallas. But this story of FBI-fed would-be bombers happened right here in Portland.

On Friday night authorities took 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud into custody after he allegedly tried blowing up a van he believed was loaded with explosives. That van was parked at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at downtown Portland's Pioneer Square – an annual event that draws thousands of people into "Portland's living room."

A year ago in another federal sting, another 19 year old – this one a Jordanian by the name of Hosam Smadi – was arrested on charges he intended to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper. Federal officials said he placed what he believed was a car bomb outside the building but was instead a decoy device given him by an undercover FBI agent.

Something similar happened in late October, when 34-year-old Farooque Ahmed of Virginia was arrested and accused of casing Washington-area subway stations in what he thought was an al-Qaida plot to bomb and kill commuters. The Associated Press reports that, similar to the Portland sting, the bombing plot was a ruse conducted over the past six months by federal officials.

Now, people who live, work and play in downtown Portland are just learning about the arrest. And many we talked with were shocked that this plot could have happened right here under their nose.

"I'm out here visiting family," said David Lemon, walking around downtown on this balmy Saturday. "...You think of terrorism [and] you think it's somewhere else. But here it is."

Even people who work across the street had no idea.

"I was actually really shocked," said Linda Schwab, who works across the street.

Michael Knapp also works nearby: "It was amazing to think that I was walking down here 30 minutes before if it happened. Something bad could have happened, so it sort of touches home."

While many are having a hard time imagining this could happen here, Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson says the Portland Police Department is prepared for these kind of situations. 

"I don't think anyone in law enforcement is surprised about things like this," Simpson said. "We get a lot of training; we get constant information about things that might happen but don't."
    
And Kirstin Davis isn't about  to let a suspected terrorist stop her from coming out here.

" I wasn't going to let some punk kid scare me away," the Portland resident told KATU on Saturday. "I'm not going to let some 19 year old bully me on a Portland non-rainy holiday day."

Portland Police tell us no one was ever in danger. However, they say they will have more security over the next couple of days.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Muslim American and Arab American Leaders of Oregon and Southwest  Washington are speaking out against Friday night's alleged attempted terror attack. They have planned a meeting Saturday night in front of Portland City Hall "to condemn in the strongest terms any planned attack on innocent people," said group spokesperson Jesse Day.

This comes as the Federal Bureau of Investigation has notified mosque leadership throughout the city of the failed plot. At least one mosque in the Portland area is being given law-enforcement protection as a result of this incident.

- KATU Reporter Joe Raineri contributed to this report.


Mohamed Osman Mohamud is seen in a Multnomah County Jail booking photo: