Entries in Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (5)


Obama Will Light New National Christmas Tree

Robert Shafer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will officially light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday evening, inaugurating a new, significantly smaller, tree on the Ellipse and continuing a tradition 89 years in the making.

While the White House is eager to cut federal costs, this year’s tree was not a recession-friendly effort by the Obama administration. The 40-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce that had served as the national tree for 32 years was snapped in half by strong winds in February. The new, 26-foot-tall tree from New Jersey will make its grand debut as the National Christmas Tree on Thursday.

The tradition to have a national tree began in 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge lit 2,500 electric bulbs on a 48-foot balsam fir on Christmas Eve. Since then, the event has grown significantly. Thursday night’s lighting ceremony will include performances by Big Time Rush, the Black Eyed Peas, and Kermit the Frog.

The holiday season has officially arrived at the White House. Thursday’s tree lighting comes one day after the White House holiday decorations and this year’s theme -- “Shine, Give, Share” -- were unveiled to the public.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Christmas Tree Bomber' Was In Touch With Al Qaeda Mouthpiece

Photo Courtesy - Multnomah County Jail(WASHINGTON) -- Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the Somali-American college student charged with plotting an attack on a Christmas tree lighting event in Portland, Oregon, was in contact with, and wrote articles for, another prominent American al Qaeda propagandist for nearly two years, authorities say.

Mohamud, who was arrested in an FBI sting, is accused of attempting to detonate what he believed to be a car bomb in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square via cellphone during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree last Friday, which had drawn a crowd of thousands. The supposed explosive device was non-functional. Mohamud, 19, pled not guilty in federal court Monday to one count of an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI affidavit alleges that Mohamud stated to undercover agents that he had wanted to take part in violent jihad since he was 15, and that he told FBI agents that he had written four articles since 2009 for two different online jihadist magazines edited and distributed by Samir Khan.

Khan, 24, is the Saudi-born, New York-raised editor behind Inspire magazine, the English language online publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Khan, who has said he is currently hiding in Yemen, has become a rising figure in jihadist propaganda and an "aspiring" Anwar Awlaqi, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Under the pen name "Ibn al-Mubarak," alleges the FBI, Mohamud wrote three articles "discussing violent jihad" that appeared in 2009 in Jihad Recollections, the web magazine edited that Khan edited from his parents' North Carolina basement before relocating to Yemen.

One of the articles published under the name Ibn al-Mubarak was titled, "Getting in shape without weights," which appeared in the first issue of Jihad Recollections, urged aspiring jihadists to stay fit for God.

American forces, said the article, "cannot go to any battlefront without carrying along with them their bench, squat sets and sometimes even their machines," proof that jihadists should avoid costly devices to get strong.

In a 2009 article that praised al Qaeda's media wing, As-Sahab, Ibn al-Mubarak wrote that the organization has a "great influence on the hearts and minds of many Muslims because they help everyone realize the reality of the situation and not losing focus of the real issues at hand."

Mohamud allegedly told agents that he had written another article for Khan's new, Yemen-based web magazine, Inspire, but that it had not yet been published.

In its affidavit, the FBI says it became aware of Mohamud after he exchanged emails with a jihadist in Pakistan in 2009. Mohamud was attempting to travel to Pakistan for weapons and explosives training, but failed to follow the instructions of his contact to reach someone who could facilitate his travel.

The FBI then contacted Mohamud through an email with an undercover agent posing as the foreign facilitator, according to the complaint.

Soon after the email exchanges, the affidavit alleges, Mohamud told the FBI undercover agent that he wanted to go "operational" but needed training. The first undercover agent allegedly introduced Mohamud to a second undercover agent.

Mohamud then suggested to the two undercover agents that he detonate a bomb during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, according to the affidavit. When the FBI agents suggested that Mohamud would have to use a car bomb, and might also have to die during the operation, Mohamud said he was willing, alleges the affidavit. Mohamud also allegedly determined where to park a van filled with explosives in the city square.

Mohamud told the agent that he sought a "huge mass that attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."

On Friday, when the FBI loaded a van with a fake device, they asked Mohamud to detonate the fake bomb by dialing a number on a cellphone. After he failed to explode the device with his first call, alleges the affidavit, he dialed the number a second time and FBI agents swooped in to arrest him.

On Monday, Mohamud's attorney said he planned to use an entrapment defense.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Alleged Christmas Tree Bomber Heads to Court

Photo Courtesy - Multnomah County Jail(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- A 19-year-old Somali-American accused of attempting to set off a car bomb at an Oregon Christmas tree lighting is expected to appear in federal court Monday, authorities said.

According to undercover FBI agents, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was the target of a six-month FBI sting in which he allegedly believed he was detonating a bomb inside a parked van near Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square Friday night.

However, the bomb wasn't real and his alleged associates were actually FBI agents.  They arrested Mohamud after he dialed a cell phone number he believed would trigger the blast.

"The FBI took great caution to insure that the arrest was planned in a way to insure public safety," said U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton.

According to the FBI, Mohamud was "anxious to go operational and learn about explosives" and "allegedly considered a Mumbai style shooting rampage."

When told Mohamed might see body parts and blood, FBI agents allegedly recorded Mohamud saying, "I want to see that, that's what I want for these people...I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured."

If convicted, Mohamud faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Arson at Mosque Linked to Suspect in Foiled Portland Car Bombing

The Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center. Photo Courtesy - KATU Portland, Ore.(CORVALLIS, Ore.) -- Fire at a Mosque near the university attended by the suspect in the Portland Christmas Tree car bombing attempt was set on purpose.  The Corvallis, Ore., fire department responded to the fire at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center early Sunday. 

The fire was limited to one room and firefighters put it out quickly.  A cause and origination investigation led fire officials to determine the fire was arson.  The Corvallis Police Department is treating it as a criminal matter.

The Center is near the University of Oregon campus, where 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud attended classes until recently.  He reportedly went to services at the mosque.

Mohamud was caught in an FBI sting operation in which authorities say he tried to detonate a bomb that he didn't know was fake during Portland's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Terror Sting: Oregon Man Nabbed After Attempted Car Bombing

Photo Courtesy - Multnomah County Jail(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Police have arrested a man who allegedly attempted to detonate a car bomb Friday night at a Portland, Ore., Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested, authorities say, after he tried to remotely detonate a van packed with what he believed were explosives.

The man was the subject of a long-term sting operation headed by the FBI. Officials allege that Mohamud made contact with an Islamic radical based overseas and expressed interest in committing violent jihad.

A statement from U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton said the explosives were inert and the public was “never in danger.”

“This defendant’s chilling determination is a stark reminder that there are people -- even here in Oregon -- who are determined to kill Americans,” Holton said.

Though police say the situation was controlled, officials admit the threat of an attack is real.

“Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.

Mohamud is expected to appear in federal court in Portland on Monday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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