'Christmas Tree Bomber' Was In Touch With Al Qaeda Mouthpiece

Portland suspect Mohamed Mohamud wrote jihadi articles for Samir Khan.

October 31, 2010, 3:53 PM

Nov. 30, 2010 — -- Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the Somali-American college student charged with plotting an attack on a Christmas lighting event in Portland, Oregon, was in contact with, and wrote articles for, another prominent American al Qaeda propagandist for nearly two years, authorities say.

Mohamud, who was arrested in an FBI sting, is accused of attempting to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square via cellphone during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree last Friday, which had drawn a crowd of thousands. The supposed explosive device was non-functional . Mohamud, 19, pled not guilty in federal court Monday to one count of an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI affidavit alleges that Mohamud stated to undercover agents that he had wanted to take part in violent jihad since he was 15, and that he told FBI agents that he had written four articles since 2009 for two different on-line jihadist magazines edited and distributed by Samir Khan.

Khan, 24, is the Saudi-born, New York-raised editor behind Inspire magazine, the English language online publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Khan, who has said he is currently hiding in Yemen, has become a rising figure in jihadist propaganda and an "aspiring" Anwar Awlaqi, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Under the pen name "Ibn al-Mubarak," alleges the FBI, Mohamud wrote three articles "discussing violent jihad" that appeared in 2009 in Jihad Recollections, the web magazine edited that Khan edited from his parents' North Carolina basement before relocating to Yemen.

One of the articles published under the name Ibn al-Mubarak was titled, "Getting in shape without weights," which appeared in the first issue of Jihad Recollections, urged aspiring jihadists to stay fit for God.

American forces, said the article, "cannot go to any battlefront without carrying along with them their bench, squat sets and sometimes even their machines," proof that jihadists should avoid costly devices to get strong.

In a 2009 article that praised al Qaeda's media wing, As-Sahab, Ibn al-Mubarak wrote that the organization has a "great influence on the hearts and minds of many Muslims because they help everyone realize the reality of the situation and not losing focus of the real issues at hand."

FBI: Mohamud Exchanged Email With Jihadist In Pakistan

Mohamud allegedly told agents that he had written another article for Khan's new, Yemen-based web magazine, Inspire, but that it had not yet been published.

In its affidavit, the FBI says it became aware of Mohamud after he exchanged emails with a jihadist in Pakistan in 2009. Mohamud was attempting to travel to Pakistan for weapons and explosives training, but failed to follow the instructions of his contact to reach someone who could facilitate his travel.

The FBI then contacted Mohamud through an email with an undercover agent posing as the foreign facilitator, according to the complaint.

Soon after the email exchanges, the affidavit alleges, Mohamud told the FBI undercover agent that he wanted to go "operational" but needed training. The first undercover agent allegedly introduced Mohamud to a second undercover agent.

Mohamud then suggested to the two undercover agents that he detonate a bomb during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, according to the affidavit. When the FBI agents suggested that Mohamud would have to use a car bomb, and might also have to die during the operation, Mohamud said he was willing, alleges the affidavit. Mohamud also allegedly determined where to park a van filled with explosives in the city square.

Mohamud told the agent that he sought a "huge mass that will…be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."

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On Friday, when the FBI loaded a van with a fake device, they asked Mohamud to detonate the fake bomb by dialing a number on a cellphone. After he failed to explode the device with his first call, alleges the affidavit, he dialed the number a second time and FBI agents swooped in to arrest him.

On Monday, Mohamud's attorney said he planned to use an entrapment defense.

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