Portland, Oregon, isn't exactly thought of as a hotbed for terrorist activity, but that's exactly why a teenager said he set out to bomb a popular Christmas tree lighting there Friday.
According to CNN, 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud told an undercover FBI agent he was looking for a "huge mass that will ... be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays." Officials said Mohamud also stated, "... it's in Oregon; and Oregon like you know, nobody ever thinks about it."
"Do you remember when 9/11 happened when those people were jumping from skyscrapers?" Mohamud asked agents, according to an affidavit. "I thought that was awesome."
Fortunately, Mohamud was arrested about 20 minutes before the ceremony began with a van full of what he thought were explosives near the ceremony ready to detonate.
The FBI had been tipped off in 2009 about his communications with terrorists in Pakistan and was on to his plan. What Mohamud thought were real explosives were actually fake ones an undercover agent had sold to him, so the public was never in danger.
But the fact that he tried to cause such intentional devastation is terrifying.
By most accounts he appeared to be a typical college student attending classes at the University of Oregon. He was born in Somalia but later became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
A source told AOL News he was “a normal student who went to athletic events, drank the occasional beer and was into rap music and culture.”
But somewhere along the way, he began thinking about making a jihad -- as young as 15 he told agents. Earlier this year he was prevented from boarding a flight to Alaska after being questioned by FBI agents.
Authorities say he was working alone, though he did attempt to reach out to terrorists in Pakistan.
Some have cried entrapment and that the FBI "helped" him along until his capture, but mostly people are relieved that no lives were lost and left ruminating on the what ifs.
On one hand, this case is frightening because it makes us wonder how many others are out there, like Mohamud, wanting to cause the same kind of harm, who could be lurking at the holiday parades and gatherings and shopping malls as we go about this holiday season.
On the other hand, it’s an example that for all we may disagree with and distrust our national security efforts, at least in some cases they’re working -- perhaps more than we’ll ever know.
Does this attempted bomb plot make you feel more or less confident in our national security?
Image via New York Daily News