WASHINGTON: An Iraqi man who came to the United States two years ago and applied for asylum hatched a plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush in retaliation for casualties against his compatriots during the Iraq war, the US government announced Tuesday.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab, 52, also schemed to smuggle other Iraqis into the US from Mexico to aid in the plot, after which they’d be smuggled back out through Mexico, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Columbus.
Shihab insinuated he had contacts with the so-called Islamic State group, but it did not appear the plot came close to materialising, with confidential informants briefing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from April 2021 through this month, the complaint said.
Shihab was ordered held without bond by federal Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers during a short hearing in court Tuesday. Deavers scheduled a detention hearing for Friday.
Shihab was not required to enter a plea. Soumyajit Dutta, a federal public defender representing Shihab at the hearing, declined to comment. If convicted, Shihab could face up to 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Freddy Ford, the chief of staff at the 75-year-old former president’s office, said, “President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities.”
Shihab worked at restaurants in and around Columbus and also at a market in Indianapolis where he had an apartment, the government said.
Shihab told a confidential informant that he assisted in the killing of American soldiers during the Iraq War, and said he and others “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,” the complaint said.
Shihab traveled in February to Dallas, where he took video of the entrance gate to the neighbourhood where Bush lives, and also traveled to Detroit in November to investigate smuggling Iraqi nationals into the US, the government said.
Shihab met a confidential informant in a Columbus hotel room in March to examine weapons and US border patrol uniforms, according to the complaint. Shihab allegedly planned to use a Columbus car dealership to help transfer money from an Islamic State official into the US.
Last fall, Shihab accepted thousands of dollars for what he thought was payment for him to smuggle another Iraqi citizen into the US, according to the complaint, but the transaction was entirely coordinated by the FBI.