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A former Oregon State University student who had written of the need for jihad to “break the enemy’s will” was found guilty Thursday by a federal jury in Portland,of trying to bomb a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in 2010.

Mohamed Mohamud, 21, a Somali American, met for months with undercover FBI agents he thought were al-Qaida operatives and plotted what he thought would be a spectacularly violent holiday attack in Portland.

Mohamud, whose father says he was recruited and brainwashed by the FBI, faces a sentence of up to life in prison on the charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

“Mr. Mohamud made a series of choices over a period of several years, choices that were leading him down a path that would have ended in violence,” Greg Fowler, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Portland, said in a written statement after the verdict.

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The defense said it would appeal.

Prosecutors introduced recorded conversations and writings in which Mohamud, who was 18 when he met the two undercover agents, talked of the need to eliminate nonbelievers and wage violent jihad.

“I can’t tell you how easy it should be to bring any community here in the West to its knees,” he wrote in one email.

Mohamud was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. at age 5 and grew up in the Portland suburb of Beaverton. His father is a software engineer at Intel.

Prosecutors said the bomb Mohamud saw installed in the back of a van was fake. He was arrested after twice pressing the buttons of a cellphone he thought would detonate the device.

The defense contends Mohamud was entrapped.

“This was not somebody sitting around thinking about blowing up Portland,” chief defense lawyer Stephen Sady told the jury.

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