The Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered a recent assassination plot by an Iraqi man linked to the terrorist organization ISIS to kill former President George W. Bush, Forbes reported Tuesday.
The suspect, Shihab Ahmed Shihab, 52, was arrested Tuesday and charged with aiding and abetting a plot to assassinate the former president, in addition to conspiring to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States to help carry out the killing.
According to FBI reports, Shihab was a self-described “soldier waiting for directions from the leadership in Qatar” and planned to provide material support to the Islamic State or ISIS.
The FBI stated that Shihab said he had connections to ISIS and had worked with terrorist groups to kill many Americans in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. He also said he had transported vehicles and weapons from Syria into Iraq to supply terrorist groups and claimed he was related to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader who declared himself to be the caliph of the so-called Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi committed suicide in 2019 after detonating an explosive vest to avoid capture.
Shihab said that he wanted to kill George W. Bush because “he felt the former president was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the country after the 2003 U.S. military invasion.”
Shihab arrived in the U.S. in 2020 – entering the country on a visitor visa – and applied for asylum in March 2021. He lived in both Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis and worked at markets and restaurants in both cities, according to the FBI.
In his premeditated plot to assassinate Bush, Shihab traveled to Dallas in November to film the area around the former president’s home. He then recruited a team of Iraqis which he planned to smuggle into the U.S. over the Mexican border, according to a search-warrant application filed on March 23, which was unsealed this week.
The FBI uncovered Shihab’s plans using surveillance of his WhatsApp messaging account and two undercover FBI informants who met with Shihab and secretly recorded their conversations and communications with him.
Shahib told one of the informants that he “did not care if he died as he would be proud” to be involved in the killing of Bush, the FBI said in the warrant application.
The suspect confirmed he was part of a unit called “Al-Raed,” which means “Thunder,” led by a former Iraqi pilot for Saddam Hussein. According to Shahib, as many as seven members of the unit were reportedly going to come to the U.S. to kill Bush.
Shahib’s role allegedly was “to locate and conduct surveillance on former president Bush’s residences and/or offices and obtain firearms and vehicles to use in the assassination.”
Shahib was planning to get four Iraqis –located in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Denmark – into the U.S., according to the FBI report, and claimed that one of them was “the secretary of an ISIS financial minister.”
The men were described as “former Baath Party members in Iraq who did not agree with the current Iraqi government and were political exiles.” The Baath Party was led by former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
“It’s clear this was a sophisticated counterterrorism operation with a lot of moving parts,” Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told Forbes.
“It was both far reaching and unique in its targeting. Also, we haven’t seen a plot of this scale in a number of years. It shows that while domestic terrorism rightly takes a good amount of counterterrorism focus, the threats are not there alone.”