Seattle's Somali community fears backlash from bomb plot

Seattle's Somali community fears backlash from bomb plot »Play Video
Sahra Farah, director of the Somali Community Center in Seattle, talks about her fears of a backlash against the Somali American community after a terror plot was uncovered in Portland.
SEATTLE - The Somali community in Seattle is on high alert - in fear of a backlash after an attempted terror arrest at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore.

Seattleites with a Somali background are concerned that people will think all Somali Muslims are potential terrorists.

"It's a little bit shocked us - our community," says Sahra Farah, director of the Somali Community Center in Seattle.

Farah is stunned that a naturalized U.S. citizen from her home country is accused of trying to kill thousands of people in Portland - in the name of Allah.

"Definitely shocked, because sometimes, it's like, 'Hey, it's not true - it's not true.' So hard to believe. Too hard to believe it," she says.

Federal agents arrested 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud on Friday after he allegedly used a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van at the Portland Christmas tree lighting ceremony, attended by thousands of families.

It turned out to be a dummy bomb put together by FBI agents, but Mohamud thought it was real, and he said he didn't mind that children would die in the blast, according to a law-enforcement official and court documents.

"It's really, really bad," Farah says.

Her greatest fear is that some people will retaliate against the Somali community - one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in Seattle.

"I know I'm gonna be getting a lot of phone calls again - and some people getting harassed, or getting hurt," Farah says.

Just last month police arrested Jennifer Jennings. Investigators say she attacked two Muslim women from Somalia at a Tukwila gas station.

According to court documents, Jennings called the women "terrorists" and "suicide bombers." She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Farah says some Somali Muslims were harassed after 9/11 and in September of last year, when a Somali-American suicide bomber from Seattle was accused of killing 21 peacekeepers in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Arslan Bukhari of the Council on American-Islamic Relations works to improve relations between non-Muslim Americans and Muslims. He also worries this latest suspected terror plot could ignite violence.

"We don't want a backlash by persons who are driven to believe that somehow the Somali-American community, or the Muslim-American community, had something to do with this," says Bukhari.

Seattle's Somali community plans to host a group meeting early next week to discuss their concerns about a backlash.

They also plan on working with the Seattle Police Departmrny to find ways to protect themselves from harassment and violence.