Politics

Iraqi citizen arrested in Ohio in plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush

 (CNN) — An Iraqi national living in Columbus, Ohio, was arrested Tuesday and faces federal charges related to an alleged plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush, the Justice Department announced.

Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab has been charged with aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former United States official, as well as with an immigration crime for his alleged attempt to illegally bring foreign nationals to the United States.

According to the Justice Department, Shihab is alleged to have planned to smuggle four Iraqi nationals as part of the plot. Court documents obtained by CNN describe reconnaissance by Shihab that included driving to the neighborhood of Bush’s residence in Dallas.

  • From WISH-TV: Court documents say Shihab previously routinely traveled between the Indianapolis metropolitan area and the Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area, and that Shihab had worked at a Halal market in the Indianapolis area and had an apartment near his place of employment.

“President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities,” Bush’s chief of staff Freddy Ford said in a statement.

The investigation was disclosed in a March 23 application filed under seal, seeking a search warrant for phone records of a person identified in the documents as Shihab Ahmed Shihab, who entered the U.S. in September 2020.

The FBI uncovered the plot through confidential informants, one of whom recorded discussions about the assassination plot with Shihab in meetings late last year and through the spring, the documents show. There is no suggestion in the documents that the former President was ever in danger.

The warrant application, filed in the Southern District of Ohio, was first reported by Forbes.

Shihab’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

One of those conversations was alleged to have happened in November during a trip that Shihab and the informant took from Columbus, Ohio, to the Detroit area and back, according to the warrant application and a complaint filed in court that was made public Tuesday.

During the November meeting, Shihab is alleged to have told an FBI informant that “they wished to kill former President Bush because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq.”

According to a January conversation recounted in the warrant application, Shihab described himself as a “soldier waiting for directions from the leadership in Qatar.”

During the January meeting, Shihab allegedly described being part of an overseas group he called “Al-Raed,” which means “Thunder.”

The complaint says that Shihab told the informant in substances “that the ‘Al-Raed’ group that was planning to assassinate former President Bush was unrelated to ISIS, but he was hoping that ISIS would approve and collaborate in the assassination.”

In February, during in-person meetings in Dallas that the documents say were recorded, Shihab and the informant drove to the neighborhood of Bush’s residence in Dallas, as Shihab allegedly took videos of the neighborhood’s access gate and the surrounding area, according to the documents.

During the February meetings, Shihab and the informant also traveled to the George W. Bush Institute, where they walked around on foot. Shibab took video recordings of the institute’s library and office area, the court documents said.

The next month, the informant met with Shihab in Columbus, and Shihab allegedly examined firearms and a U.S. Border Patrol uniform that the informant presented to Shihab. The court documents say the firearms and uniforms were provided to the informant by the FBI.

In April, Shihab gave an interview to the FBI where he told the law enforcement officials about discussions he had about a smuggling network, but Shihab was “not fully truthful as to his own role in the alien smuggling scheme,” the court documents said.

Another plot

In 2021, federal investigators were keeping tabs on Shihab as he sought to help to smuggle individuals into the United States, according to the documents. A separate confidential source working with the FBI discussed with Shihab bringing a brother to the U.S., investigators said. The brother was fictitious, but Shihab still outlined how $40,000 could get the job done by bringing the person through Mexico and into the United States.

The final payment of $20,000 was set to be handed over at a Starbucks in Ohio, according to the court record. Shihab pulled up to the Starbucks, alone, in an old blue minivan, four days before Christmas 2021.

The FBI’s source recorded the meeting and paid Shihab in cash, investigators said.

“The interaction was coordinated under the direction of the FBI,” the Justice Department said in its press release about Shihab’s charges on Tuesday.

During the discussions about the brother, Shihab spoke about bringing others into the United States, including two people associated with Hezbollah, investigators said in the search warrant application.

A detention hearing is scheduled in the case for 1 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Ohio told CNN.