PORTLAND, Ore. -- Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the suspect in Friday night s plot to explode a car-bomb during Portland's Christmas tree lighting celebration, is a naturalized American citizen who was born in Somalia in 1991.

Mohamud is among tens of thousands of Somalis who have resettled in the United States since their country plunged into lawlessness in 1991.

During elementary school, Mohamud moved 9,000 miles from the war-torn streets of Mogadishu to the suburbs of Portland.

Growing up in the suburbs

Stephanie Napier knew the family well. They were neighbors for three years before the family moved away about a year ago after the parents got a divorce.

Their children played together and Napier insists they were not racists, did not hate America or Americans.

I know his mom was very proud of him, she said of the teen now under arrest for the bomb plot, He was a very good student. He did everything that was asked of him. She spoke very highly of him.

It breaks my heart, it honestly breaks my heart, Napier says of the recent turn of events. I don't know what happened, so I cannot say . . . I just know this is a sad, sad story.

Tyler Napier, 17, played recreational basketball with Mohamud.

We would always be outside playing in the street together, he said. It's really scary to think about . . . I talked to him, went to school with him, now he's trying to blow up the Square - it's like a reality check I guess.

Tyler Napier asks that the actions of Mohamud be distanced from the rest of his family.

Don't judge them, just 'cause of his actions, Tyler implored. It was his choice, don't judge his family, cause they didn't make him to anything.

Art Adams lived next door to the family for about six months and was in shock. He never saw the family express any enmity for the United States and remembers kids innocently playing basketball in the street.

One neighbor who did not want to be identified nor interviewed on camera said there is alot of racial and ethnic tension in the apartment complex between whites, Hispanics and Somalis.

Itzel Barajas agreed with the anonymous neighbor about the racial tensions, and said the terror incident stunned her. She remember Mohamud as a nice young man who helped carry tenant's groceries from car to apartment.

Tenant Karen Cheney said the news of the arrest convinced her it's time to move.

I am leaving this establishment as soon as possible, she said, I am not going to raise my children around that violence! I don't want my kids around that.

She said Somali children have verbally abused her son, called him Jewish, and one stabbed the boy with a pencil.

Westview High grad

He graduated from Westview High School in 2009 and then enrolled at Oregon State University.

Westview classmates told KGW he often joked about being a terrorist, but no one took him seriously.

A classmate who didn't want to be identified remembered Mohamud's odd choice for a physics project. Mohamud detailed how a rocket-propelled grenade worked.

It was just weird about how someone would choose that, you know, the classmate said.

In an affidavit obtained by KGW, Mohamud recently told the FBI he had been thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since the age of 15.

Another of Mohamud's former classmates remembered a fight the two had over a messy locker. The main thing was, the way he said he hated Americans, said Andy Stull. It was serious. He looked me in the eye and had this look in his eye, like it was his determination in life I hate Americans!

Stull says he was scared enough at the time to get school counselors involved, but that was the end of it.

VIDEO: Mohamud told classmate: I hate Americans

Part-time at Oregon State

In the fall of 2009, Mohamud started his freshman year at Oregon State. He took classes part-time, with a focus on engineering.

Oregon State Police investigated Mohamud for an alleged date rape in 2009 on the OSUcampus, but the case was eventually dropped.

Authorities have not explained how Mohamud, an Oregon State University student until he dropped out on Oct. 6, became so radicalized.

He attended the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center near campus. His Imam, Yousef Wanly, described him as a normal student who went to athletic events, drank an occasional beer and was into rap music and culture. He described Mohamud as religious, saying he attended prayers in Corvallis once or twice a month over a year and a half.

Wanly, 24, said that in about 15 conversations he had with Mohamud, the teen rarely discussed religion. He said that may have been because Mohamud knew his extremist views wouldn't be tolerated, and suggested that Mohamud was influenced by radical teaching he read on the Internet.

If a person has a type of agenda, he can find anything he wants on the Internet and block out everything else, Wanly said.

In the days leading up to his arrest, Mohamud's friends thought he appeared on edge, Wanly said.

He seemed to be in a state of confusion, Wanly said. He would say things that weren't true. He'd say 'I'm going to go get married,' for example. He wasn't going to go get married.

I had to say he did a number of things against the religion. He had a lifestyle that was against the religion. I can't really say that he was in a position to represent Islam, said Wanly.

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