CORVALLIS - Local friends of the 19-year-old accused of plotting to blow up a crowd at Pioneer Courhouse Square on Friday described him Saturday as a ‘stand-up guy' who had lots of friends, liked basketball and showed no evidence of being a bomber.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, an American citizen who was born in Somalia, withdrew from Oregon State University on Oct 6.
The FBI has accused him of attempting to set off a weapon of mass destruction Friday in Pioneer Courthouse Square, where a crowd had gathered for the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. Mohamud dialed a cell phone number to detonate a van filled with explosives, and that was when he was arrrested in an FBI sting.
Within an hour, the story had made international headlines around the world.
In Corvallis, Mohamud lived off-campus from OSU and seldom attended the local mosque, the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center on Northwest Kings Boulevard.
Fellow Muslims held worship services there on Saturday and issued a press release that they requested be published verbatim (see above statement).
Omar Mohamed, 22, of Corvallis, who is the president of the Muslim Student Association, said that Mohamud did not regularly attend the mosque, but he saw him sometimes at Muslim student social events.
"From what I saw, he was a pretty normal college student," Mohamed said. He was quick to condemn the actions for which the teen could face a life sentence in prison, if he's convicted.
"It doesn't take much thought from a reasonable person to see that his actions and behavior in this instance are not very reflective of Islam," Mohamed said. "He's 19 years old; it's heartbreaking to see a youth influenced in such a way. Taking a life is no small measure by any means."
Mo Kim, 23, a senior at OSU, said he knew Mohamud from class.
"He's a chill kid," Kim said. "He was Black Friday shopping with friends the night before. It's kind of crazy. No one saw this coming. Some people think he was framed."
Kim described him as popular guy who attended parties and was well-liked, with many friends.
"You expect someone (who would plot to explode a bomb) like that to be really radical," he said. "(Mohamud) was a stand-up guy. He played basketball, liked the Blazers. He was a normal Oregonian."
However, Kim said that in the past six months - roughly the same time that FBI agents said Mohamud was working with undercover operatives to supposedly plan a mass bombing - Mohamud had been emotionally troubled.
Before he began attending courses at OSU in the fall of 2009, Kim said Mohamud "was trying to go to an Islamic school overseas, but he was put on the no-fly list."
Mohamud dropped out Oct. 6 after having been a "non-degree" student, meaning he had not been formally admitted to the university to pursue a degree program, but was instead taking individual courses.
Kim said he didn't see Mohamud as a bomber.
"College students do stupid things all the time. It's unfortunate that people tried to exploit (him) instead of helping him."