Alleged Christmas Tree Bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud Heads to Court

A man accused of attempting to set off a car bomb heads to court in Oregon.

November 29, 2010, 3:11 AM

Nov. 29, 2010— -- A 19-year-old Somali American accused of attempting to set off a car bomb at an Oregon Christmas tree lighting is expected to appear in federal court today, authorities said.

According to undercover FBI agents, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was the target of a six-month FBI sting in which he allegedly believed he was detonating a bomb inside a parked van near Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square Friday night.

However, the bomb wasn't real and his alleged associates were actually FBI agents.

They arrested Mohamud after he dialed a cell phone number he believed would trigger the blast.

"The FBI took great caution to insure that the arrest was planned in a way to insure public safety," said U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton.

According to the FBI, Mohamud was "anxious to go operational and learn about explosives" and "allegedly considered a Mumbai style shooting rampage."

When told Mohamed might see body parts and blood, FBI agents allegedly recorded Mohamud saying, "I want to see that, that's what I want for these people…I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured."

If convicted, Mohamud faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Stephen Sady, Oregon's chief deputy federal public defender, has been working on the case this weekend, the Oregonian newspaper reported Sunday night.

Mohamud, a Somali-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, recently attended classes at Oregon State University where he reportedly studied engineering.

He occasionally attended the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Ore., which was the target of arson this weekend -- a fire the FBI fears was in retaliation for the attempted terrorist strike.

Firefighters said the blaze damaged a room at the center before dawn Sunday, according to Reuters.

"This is a big, dangerous mess," Imam Mikal Shabazz, president of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization, said in an interview with Reuters.

The local imam says Mohamud didn't appear to a budding radical.

"He seemed like an average kid. You know an average student at the university," Imam Yosof Wanly said.

In an e-mail intercepted by the FBI, Mohamud allegedly writes of earlier intentions including his attempts to travel to the Middle East to join other jihadists, but says "I have been betrayed by my family."

The FBI offered $10,000 for information in the arson case and Portland Mayor Sam Adams said security was increased at local mosques, Reuters reported.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events