Monday, January 14, 2013

FBI agent says Somali-born Oregon bomb suspect discussed martyrdom in emails

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Testimony in the trial of a Somali-born man charged with trying to bomb a Christmas tree event in Oregon opened on Monday with an FBI agent saying the accused first aroused concerns by discussing martyrdom in email exchanges with Islamist militants.

Miltiadis Trousas, supervisor for the FBI sting operation that led to the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud two years ago, testified that the defendant came to authorities' attention through intercepted communications with "some dangerous people overseas."

But under defense cross-examination, Trousas acknowledged that authorities lacked any evidence that Mohamud had actually sought bomb-making instructions or materials until after he first met with undercover FBI agents in July 2010.

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Oregon State University student, faces life in prison if convicted on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a plot to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland in November 2010. He was 19 at the time.

An FBI affidavit filed in the case says Mohamud was taken into custody after he tried to use a cell phone to trigger what he believed was a car bomb but was actually a harmless device supplied by agents posing as operatives for Islamist extremists.

The fake bomb was planted in a van near a downtown square lined with shops and offices and crowded with thousands of people attending the holiday festivities.