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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Alleged Xmas Tree Bomber|Worried About Grammar

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The alleged Christmas tree bomber was concerned that there were six grammatical errors in an online jihad magazine, and told its followers, "As jihadis, we really shouldn't have any," according to trial testimony this week.

A federal jury this week heard selections from massive amounts of writings and electronic communications that FBI agents collected from Mohamed Mohamud, who is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Several FBI agents testified this week, defending their undercover work and eventual arrest of Mohamud, now 21.

Prosecutors claim the FBI gave Mohamud many opportunities to back out of the bomb plot, but his public defenders claim he had no means to commit a terrorist act without the FBI's involvement.

Mohamud was arrested the day after Thanksgiving in 2010 after an undercover sting in which he tried to detonate a fake bomb built by FBI agents.

During the early stages of the FBI's investigation, one agent described Mohamud in an email as a "pretty manipulable and conflicted kid" who was caught between "hard rule Islamic life and college party life."

"He wants to have it both ways," agent Isaac DeLong wrote in an email to colleagues, which the jury heard this week.

Mohamud was a high school senior in Beaverton, Ore., a suburb of Portland, when FBI agents in Charlotte, N.C. found him communicating with al-Qaeda affiliate Samir Khan.

Khan, raised in the United States, published radical online Islamist magazines. He was killed in a 2011 drone strike, along with cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Prosecutors made much of Mohamud's association with Khan this week.

In February 2009, Mohamud expressed interest in writing for Khan's new web magazine, Jihad Recollections.

"I am the best writer in my state," Mohamud wrote to Khan in an email. He refused, however, to tell Khan where he lived.

Using the pen name Ibn al-Mubarak, Mohamud's his first article, "Staying in Shape Without Weights," was published in Jihad Recollections.

Under questioning by prosecutor Pam Holsinger, FBI Agent Ryan Dwyer provided summaries of the magazine and Mohamud's correspondence with Khan.

Dwyer said Mohamud provided "very thorough insight and critique" on the first issue of Jihad Recollections.

After the second issue was released, Mohamud sent a message to a Google group associated with the magazine and expressed concern about deadlines and proofreading. He said he counted six grammar errors in the issue.

"As jihadis, we really shouldn't have any," Mohamud said in the message.

Public defender Steve Wax cross-examined Dwyer, and asked about some of Mohamud's emails with Samir Khan.

For example, Khan had asked Mohamud what "dawah" meant to him. (Dawah is commonly translated as "outreach.")

"It is a war of ideas," Mohamud responded, "a war of attrition."

Dwyer told Wax on the witness stand, "I'm not particularly familiar with Islam," when Wax asked him about the concept.

Wax noted that Mohamud once wrote "media is more effective than bullets."

While the jury heard a great deal of evidence about Mohamud's radical Islamist sentiments, Wax also presented a large number of text messages indicating that the teenager was partying in college.

The FBI put Mohamud under "physical surveillance" in September 2009 when he was a freshman at Oregon State University. Wax elicited testimony from Dwyer that none of the surveillance indicated that Mohamud was interested in making or buying explosives.

The text messages Wax presented indicated that Mohamud was drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and going to classes.

"We just bought a gallon of vodka, a dub of weed and hella beer, haha," Mohamud wrote in one text message presented at trial.

The timeline suggests that Mohamud wrestled with his devotion to Islam and his life as a hard-partying college student.

In one secretly obtained email, Mohamud confides to someone that he's "fallen into" alcohol and women."I have become so lost and want so badly to live in a Muslim land," Mohamud wrote in the email. "I need some soft words," he says later in the email.

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