New details are emerging into the life of a Portland teenager accused of plotting to bomb a tree lighting celebration.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested Friday night in downtown Portland after allegedly using a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van. It turned out to be a dummy bomb put together by FBI agents.
The FBI has been monitoring Mohamud for months after receiving a tip from someone who was concerned about him. An undercover FBI agent approached him in July, after Mohamud sent a friend an email in which he reportedly said he wanted to travel to Pakistan and join the jihad. The agent said Mohamud told him he wanted to build an explosive device and set it off. Agents put together the phony bomb, leading to Friday's arrest.
Mohamud was born in Somalia in 1991 and moved to the suburbs of Portland while he was in elementary school. He is a naturalized American citizen. However, the FBI affidavit claims he started to think about committing a violent act of jihad when he was 15.
And there were clues.
A former high school classman told Portland TV station KGW that Mohamud often joked about being a terrorist, but no one took him seriously. He also said Mohamud chose to detail how a rocket-propelled grenade worked as a physics project.
“It was just weird about how someone would choose that, you know," said the classmate, who asked that his name not be released.
Another former classmate remembered a fight the two had over a messy locker. "The main thing was, the way he said he hated Americans,” said Andy Stull. “It was serious. He looked me in the eye and had this look in his eye, like it was his determination in life – ‘I hate Americans!’"
Stull says he was scared enough at the time to get school counselors involved, but that was the end of it.
Mohamud entered Oregon State University last year. He also attended the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center near campus. His Imam told KGW Mohamud did not voice any radical views. The Iman said Mohamud grew reclusive recently, and described the teen as “relaxed” in his religious practice.
"I had to say he did a number of things against the religion. He had a lifestyle that was against the religion. I can't really say that he was in a position to represent Islam," said Imam Yousef Wanly.