Over the weekend, Somali-American 19 year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested following an FBI sting operation discovering that Mohamud, apparently holding grievances about U.S. foreign policy, allegedly plotted to detonate a car bomb during a Christmas Tree-lighting ceremony.
Following his arrest, the mosque he attended — the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center — released a statement saying it was “outraged” by news of the alleged plot and condemned the Mohamud’s plans. “Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center and the entire Muslim Community of Corvallis are outraged by the news of a teenage individual being involved in a plot to bomb the tree lighting event in Portland, Oregon,” the statement said. “Such conduct does not in any way represent Islam or Muslims, rather it goes against it.”
Nevertheless, the day after the mosque released the statement unequivocally condemning terrorism, it fell victim to terrorism itself. On Sunday, an apparent arsonist set fire to the mosque, burning 80 percent of the Islamic center’s office before it was put out.
What is perhaps most ironic about an arsonist apparently attacking the area’s Muslim community in response to the alleged plot is that the FBI only began tracking Mohamud thanks to a tip from his Muslim father. A member of the Somali-American community in the area informs Time magazine that Mohamud’s father, Osman Barre, had “informed Homeland Security and the FBI that something was going on with his son” before the two agencies began tracking him and eventually arrested him:
Mohamud’s mother and father and his two sisters have remained silent since his arrest. (The Oregonian identified the parents as Mariam and Osman Barre; they reportedly split up a few years ago.) However, one prominent member of the Somali community in Portland (estimated to number 8,000) says a relative played some role in helping to put the FBI on the young man’s trail — though that relative was almost certainly unaware of the scale it would assume.
“Before this happened, the father informed Homeland Security and the FBI that something was going on with his son,” claims Isgow Mohamed, the executive director of the Northwest Somali Community Organization, who says he knows Mohamud’s family well and had been in touch with them. “This a good family. The father is an engineer at Intel. This is not somebody who is on public assistance. He is a family man, a businessman, a religious man, a soccer player.”
As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said at an event earlier this year sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, “about a third of all foiled al-Qaida-related plots in the U.S. relied on support or information provided by members of the Muslim community.” A recent MPAC report details numerous plots stopped thanks to the help of Muslim Americans, including the recent attempted car bombing of Times Square, which was foiled in part by the help of Senegalese Muslim immigrant Alioune Niass.
Local news station KOIN Local 6 covered the arson attack and a “Peace and Unity Rally” that area Somali-Americans held in response to the alleged car bombing plot. The station also confirmed with local community leaders that Mohamud’s father first began to reach out to the FBI and Homeland Security in September of last year and will be making a statement in the next few days. Watch it: