The FBI says it thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city’s annual tree-lighting Friday night, reports The Oregonian. A Somali-born U.S. citizen, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square and attempted to detonate it. However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested 18 minutes before the tree lighting was to occur, on an accusation of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud had been monitored for months as his alleged bomb plot developed. “The threat was very real,” said Oregon’s FBI agent in charge Arthur Balizan. “Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale.”