Portland Terror Suspect a Self-Proclaimed Moral Authority Online

This image provided by the Mauthnomah County Sheriff's Office shows Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, arrested and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

This image provided by the Mauthnomah County Sheriff's Office shows Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, arrested and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The Somali-born American teenager accused of plotting to blow up a tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., potentially killing thousands, was trying to reach out to terrorist contacts in Pakistan while proclaiming himself an expert on jihad online, according to court documents and copies of the articles obtained by

According to the FBI affidavit filed in support of his arrest warrant and criminal complaint, Mohamed Osman Mohamud wrote three articles for Jihad Recollections, a monthly English-language jihadist magazine that was a precursor to the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire. The affidavit names one article; located copies of the other two.

In the series, Mohamud wrote using the pen name Ibn al-Mubarak and assumed the role of an Al Qaeda aerobics instructor, dietitian and media analyst proffering advice on how best to succeed in carrying out violent jihad. Topics ranged from rambling daily recaps; non-sequiturs on avoiding wasting money on expensive milkshakes; and the editors at As-Sahab Media who succeed in keeping nearly all typos out of their magazine. 

Mohamud, 19, who was arraigned in federal court Monday on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, had articles published in April, May and August 2009 in Jihad Recollections, which was run by American turncoat Samir Khan, the North Carolina man believed to be behind Inspire.

In the three articles he wrote, Mohamud presented himself as an authority on jihad, while at the same time he was just beginning to reach out to real-world contacts in an attempt to become an operational jihadist, documents show.

By August 2009, the court filing says, Mohamud was involved in email exchanges with an unnamed man referred to in the FBI affidavit as “Unindicted Associate One,” with whom Mohamud later discusses the possibility of attending a jihadi training camp overseas. 

That same month, Mohamud published “Assessing the Role and Influence of As-Sahab Media,” in praise of Al Qaeda’s media arm. The article includes a list of the most inspiring themes used to win over the hearts and minds of potential jihadis. At the top: the wills and last testaments of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

“We tend to see these homegrown types find an insatiable need to educate the world once they have a little bit of knowledge. They are morally righteous about their knowledge, even if they don’t have much of it,” said Jarret Brachman, senior adviser on counterterrorism to U.S. government agencies and author of the book Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice. 

“I'm not at all surprised that he was publishing articles in cyberspace as he was trying to find a way to get connected to actual terrorists in the physical world. He was looking for avenues to self-actualize as a jihadi," Brachman said in an interview.

Mohamud wrote: 

“Building your legs is the most important part of your body to prepare for Jihad, and if you think Jihad is anything but long walks, jogging and running then you are quite mistaken. On top of that you’re going to be carrying weapons and equipment!”

Photo guides to these jihadi calisthenics were peppered throughout the article.

He argued that using weights is unrealistic and ineffective for Mujahideen on the front lines, and he used the moment to take a dig at American troops:

“We find that this is a major setback for the Americans and the NATO Crusading army as they cannot go to any battlefront without carrying along with them their bench, squat sets and sometimes even their machines,” he wrote.

“Another reason being that the places which one can go where weights and gyms are available are not Islamic environments and definitely not fit for Mujahid in Allah’s cause. We find at these gyms such as 24 Hour Fitna and LA Fitna that they are full of music, semi-naked women, free mixing and the danger of one showing off during a workout which would destroy your intention and action.”

In the same article he warned, "Don’t waste your money on expensive protein milkshakes” and recommended egg whites, meat, fish, nuts, milk and water, 100 percent fruit juice, vegetables, rice, bread and cheese instead.

“His focus on physical fitness is completely predictable for an American Al Qaeda supporter," Brachman said. "It is representative of this need that homegrown radicals have to 'do' something, but also shows how little they actually 'know' about what they should be doing.

"So, instead of focusing on religion or ideology, they focus on the lowest common denominator, in this case, Al Qaeda exercise routines.  It's so typical of these guys who don't really know anything but feel like they need to offer advice to others.” 

Mohamud's second article, “Preparing for the Long Night,” which was published in May, offered strategies for enduring “the hardship of having to be stationed for long periods guarding the frontlines, spending the nights awake waiting to ambush an enemy, the rewards for it are immense.”

He recommended taking afternoon naps; sinning as little as possible during the day; protecting the heart from innovation and hatred toward Muslim worldviews; and thinking about the pits of Hell to stave off sleep.

And he recommended an introductory business class to help coordination and management skills.

“To master the art of ambushing the enemy and using retreatment as a strategy of war,” he suggested, among myriad other things, early-morning jogs to conquer fears of the dark, extremely elaborate jump rope routines and suicide laps.

“Clearly he was trying to think outside of the box. But it seems as if he was hampered by his own intellectual limitations,” Brachman said. “That said, he was really trying to think about how to support Al Qaeda from within the United States in new ways.”

In his third article, “Assessing the Role and Influence of As-Sahab Media,” published in the Aug. 20, 2009, issue of Jihad Recollections, Mohamud went from jihadist fitness instructor to media analyst and commentator.

The FBI affidavit alleges that during this same month, Mohamud was "in email contact with Unindicted Associate One," well on his way to allegedly plotting for a life of violent jihad.  

He proclaimed the Al Qaeda outlet the most powerful, thanks in part to its ability to inspire readers to join the cause. Number one on his list of “top themes that really have great impact” was “The Wills and Last Testaments of the 19 Martyrs of New York and Washington,” an apparent reference to the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Such series have had 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," he wrote.

He also praised As-Sahab’s “great editing teams to keep their message straight to point and hardly any spelling or punctual mistakes. Not to mention their reporter-like narrators who do a great job in keeping the viewers interested.”

"Now in this third one, you see him attempting to actually provide analysis of why Al Qaeda's media group, As-Sahab, has been successful. The analysis is amateurish, on par with a junior grad student,” Brachman said. 

“When compared to the work of another American, Zach Chesser, who sought acclaim for his own analysis, Ibn al-Mubarak's is almost embarrassing.”