Did the Internet incite Portland's bomb plot?

Did the Internet incite Portland's bomb plot?

PORTLAND, Ore. – In the year before the bomb plot, authorities say Mohamed O. Mohamud reached out to websites promoting violent jihad. And they were easy to find.

Indeed, authorities say al-Quaida – the Afghanistan-based group that took credit for the Sept. 11 attack on the New York twin towers – and its supporters are trying to recruit more people to commit attacks inside the United States. Their primary tool is the Internet for spreading this radical ideology.

Every month, new English-speaking websites pop up that promote violence against the West. Ten years ago, an analysis completed by Homeland Security found about 15 of these extremist websites on the Net. Today there are more than 6,000.

"To continue the holy war beyond Afghanistan," reports defense and aerospace expert John Pike's GlobalSecurity.org, "al-Qaeda's current goal is to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems 'non-Islamic' and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries."

With a few clicks you've entered the world of radical jihad – and it's no longer just in Arabic. The al Quaida-run websites hope to create homegrown terrorists by reaching out on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

"Our feeling is, if even one youth knows about these sites, that's one too many," said Portland-based Harris Zafar of Muslims for Peace.

Indeed, FBI agents believe Mohamed O. Mohamud – the teen accused of a plot to blow up downtown Portland Friday – wrote articles for two of these English-speaking online publications: "Jihad Recollections" and "Inspire," which features articles like "What to expect in Jihad" and "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom." The articles, written under the name Ibn al-Mubarak, focus on two major topics: physical preparation for jihad and al-Quaida media coverage.

The Somali Mission to the United Nations in New York has received thousands of calls since Friday. We spoke with its secretary, Omar Jamal, who credited the Internet for Mohamud's radical beliefs – given that Mohamud had not been to the war-torn country of Somalia since he was a child. Indeed, those within the Somalian community argue that one of their own had to be influenced by the Internet if indeed he is responsible for Friday's downtown Portland bomb plot.

"I do feel that the Web played a significant role in not only him finding a group he can associate with, but then strengthening him to a point where he could write articles that would get published on such sites," said Portland-based Harris Zafar of Muslims for Peace. Zafar says the online magazines reach out to youth, and that the underlying message is that the United States and our allies are enemies. (Example: The cover of the August 2009 edition of "Jihad Recollections.")  

One terror expert even suggests the "Jihad Recollections" writings make it seem as if the 19 year old was trying to form an Internet community of his own.

"His language about past glories and the visuals he refers to tells me that he [could be] the creator of Internet terrorist network," said Ronald Tammen, director for Portland State University's School of Government – Urban & Public Affairs, after briefly reviewing the articles earlier this week.

There is no doubt that the Internet contributed to the position Mohamud finds himself in now, facing the charge of "Attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction" in Multnomah County court. Indeed, if it weren't for a repeatedly bounced-back e-mail sent meant for an Internet contact in Pakistan, the FBI may never have tapped into what they say were Mohamud's jihadist plans.

- KATU reporters Adam Ghassemi and Susan Harding contributed information to this report.