Agent: Bomb suspect had chance to back out

Jan. 17, 2013 at 8:23 AM

PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Undercover FBI agents said they gave a Portland, Ore., man accused of trying to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony opportunities to back out.

The agents, in light disguise and identified by false names "Youssef" and "Hussein," testified Wednesday against Mohamed Mohamud, 21, who is on trial for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, Courthouse News Service reported Thursday.

The FBI says Mohamud communicated with undercover officers two years ago and ignited what he thought was a live bomb at the tree lighting ceremony. Investigators said the bomb was a fake, but the Somali-American's intentions were real.

"I want whoever is attending that event to leave either dead or injured," Mohamud can be heard saying in a wiretap recording presented at trial.

Youssef said the undercover operation was meant to determine if Mohamud was all talk about his plan to detonate a bomb, or if he was serious. Prior to the tree lighting ceremony, the agents took Mohamud to rural Lincoln County to detonate a smaller bomb.

"We wanted him to understand the magnitude of what he wanted to do," Hussein said of the practice run.

Defense lawyers have said Mohamud was a victim of overzealous agents who entrapped him. They describe a vulnerable teenager who was sought out and groomed to be a jihadist by two undercover agents.

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