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An Oregon city finds itself a terror target

Crowd gathered for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square, Portland in November. (Talon Bronson/YJI)

PORTLAND, Oregon, U.S.A. – The idea that someone sought to set off a bomb during the city’s recent Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Park has unsettled the Portland community.

“It’s something that feels weird, knowing it could happen here. I mean, it didn’t happen, but just that it almost did,” said Josiah Miller, 22.

Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, for allegedly seeking to bomb the ceremony – officials said he didn’t know the bomb was fake when he tried to set it off – residents have a shared feeling of disillusionment.

“I think almost everyone is going to feel like that, like it’s something that isn’t real, Brandon M. Sanders, 19, said.

After all, people said, Portland isn’t New York City or Los Angeles. It’s not a place where anyone expects to become the target of terrorism.

Click Here Crowd gathered for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square, Portland in November.

Talon Bronson/

“My entire family was there,” Sanders said, shaking his head.

“It’s scary, and weird, to think that they could maybe not be here anymore,” he said.

With an event as big as the tree lighting ceremony, almost everyone in town knew someone that had been at Pioneer Square during the time when law enforcement officials said Mohamud aimed to set off a bomb, making it all the more personal.

“I think its cool they got the guy,” said 16-year-old Kaden Owens. “I mean, good. I mean, he definitely isn’t a good guy.”

Thousands were at the tree lighting ceremony in November so when word broke in Portland of the bomb scare, many didn’t get the whole story. They got caught up in blessing their stars that nothing had really happened.

Some are still not aware that it was an FBI sting operation and that no bomb ever really existed.

This has led to the thought among some, and also Mohamud’s legal defense, that the case amounted to entrapment.

“It sounds kind of sketchy,” Miller said.

Owens said it is “strange how they did it” and that it “seems almost like they wanted to make an example or something.”

But while many think that it is a little weird how events unfolded, they’re generally content with the outcome.

“If he was ready to push the button, then send him to prison, man.” Miller said. “Entrapment or not.”

Miller said that someone has “the desire to blow a couple thousand people away, people I know, and good people, too. Yeah, put him away.”

“Real bomb or not,” Sanders said, “my whole family was there. Something like that happens, you just gotta be glad they’re okay.”

Talon Bronson is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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