An Iraqi citizen living in Ohio traveled to Dallas last fall as part of an alleged plot to assassinate former U.S. President George W. Bush, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has revealed. The suspect was arrested on May 24 and charged with an immigration crime and aiding and abetting a plot to murder the former president.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab, 52, lived in Columbus, Ohio, but he was allegedly in the country to support the actions of the Islamist State terrorist group, according to a confidential FBI source.
In a news release, the DOJ alleged that Shihab wanted to bring four more Iraqis into the U.S. illegally so they could kill former President George W. Bush in retaliation for the deaths of Iraqis during “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
After they killed the president, Shihab allegedly planned to sneak the four out of the country through the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The FBI stated that Shihab came into the country legally. He applied for asylum, but he also tried to marry a U.S. citizen, possibly to maintain his legal status. Because he wanted to marry a U.S. citizen, the government began investigating the possibility of visa or immigration fraud.
The Independent reports that Shihab called further attention to himself by using WhatsApp to communicate with potential accomplices. He reportedly informed them of his assassination plans and asked people to join him. At the time, he did not know that he was communicating with two FBI informants.
In his discussions with the informants, Shihab allegedly expressed his need for money, a van, and weaponry that could penetrate a vehicle. The informants assured him that all of this was possible.
Shihab and an informant allegedly traveled to Dallas in November of last year. While there, Shihab went to the former president’s house and the George W. Bush Institute. The DOJ said he took the opportunity to take videos of both locations.
According to the DOJ, Shihab is said to have traded money with other people to assist unlawful migrants into the U.S.
For example, Shihab allegedly planned to help someone he thought was another Iraqi citizen to enter the U.S. for $40,000 in August 2021. Shihab gave the person clear instructions on how he would smuggle them into the U.S. after 60 days. According to the DOJ, Shihab received tens of thousands of dollars for the alleged smuggling between October and December 2021.
However, the person was fictitious, and the FBI oversaw the setting up of the meeting, according to the DOJ.
NBC News reports that, according to a confidential FBI source, Shihab claimed that he drove a transport vehicle that contained several bombs while he was in Iraq. He also reportedly said he was in contact with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former ISIS leader. The U.S. killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019, the Guardian reports.
In June, Shihab began to tell the confidential source what he planned to do. Shihab apparently said he would pay someone to smuggle four former Baath Party members into the U.S. The four members lived in Denmark, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq, and they would enter the U.S. through the southern border with Mexico. After they arrived, they were to purchase the arms they needed and a van with a sliding door, NBC News reports.
According to the FBI affidavit, Shihab is said to have wanted to be directly involved in the plot. It claims he was unconcerned about whether he survived the operation because being involved in an action to murder President Bush would make him proud.
In response to the news of the suspect’s arrest, the chief of staff for the Office of George W. Bush released a statement, saying, “President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities.”