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The FBI says an Islamic State sympathizer living in Ohio plotted to assassinate George W Bush, but confidential informants helped federal agents foil the plan, court records show.

Details of the alleged scheme to kill the former president are exposed in a warrant the FBI obtained in March to search for the accused officer’s cellphone records, a 43-page document that was only unsealed these last days.

The man targeted by the warrant – Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52 – was arrested Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

A Bush spokesman said in a statement Tuesday that the former president was not worried.

“President Bush has the full confidence in the world in the American Secret Service and in our law enforcement and intelligence communities,” said the president’s former chief of staff, Freddy Ford.

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment on the investigation, which Forbes was first to report on Tuesday. Shihab, described as a worker at restaurants and markets in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, could not be reached.

The warrant, filed in the Southern Ohio federal district court, is based on alleged tips provided by informants and surveillance of the suspect’s account on WhatsApp, the allegedly encrypted messaging platform owned by Meta. .

According to the warrant, Shihab, a Columbus resident, wanted to assassinate Bush in revenge for the Iraqis killed during the 2003 invasion of the country, during the first of Bush’s two terms. This military campaign made headlines again last week when Bush mentioned it by accident while delivering a speech about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Either way, the FBI says Shihab — who has been in the United States since 2020 with a pending asylum claim — told an immigrant smuggling bureau informant that he had belonged to a group called al-Raed (thunder in Arabic), led until recently by a former pilot of the executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Shihab, according to the warrant, then revealed his aspirations to kill Bush and asked if the informant knew how to obtain replica law enforcement badges to help advance the plot, for which his role was to scout the houses and offices of the former president, while securing. weapons and cars.

The suspect also allegedly asked if the informant could smuggle seven Islamic State assassins into the United States who would carry out the hit and then take them along the same route after Bush’s death, according to the warrant.

The alleged plan called for the assassins – at least some from Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Denmark – to enter through the southern border on visitor visas from Mexico.

The suspect, who reportedly accepted tens of thousands of marked dollars to facilitate the assassins’ entry into the country, also reportedly boasted that he and some compatriots were “actively seeking…a former Iraqi general…and others who had helped the Americans during the war”. and were apparently living in the United States under false identities, the FBI wrote in the warrant.

Shihab reportedly accompanied the alleged smuggler-informant to Dallas in February to record video of the former president’s home as well as his presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

In March, Shihab reportedly met with others in a hotel room to examine firearms and fake law enforcement uniforms he apparently hoped to use in the assassination plot.

The suspect is accused of exchanging WhatsApp messages that generally focused on the scheme with both the smuggler’s informant and a second informant who was a client of the smuggler. The two informants also recorded face-to-face encounters with Shihab as part of the elaborate sting operation that led to his arrest, federal officials said.

Although the warrant does not specify exactly how the agents were attracted to Shihab, they have been able to see his WhatsApp messages since last year, the document states. This was partly because he was using a phone given to him by one of the informants at the request of the FBI.

Shihab faces charges of illegally bringing people to the United States as well as aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former US government official. On conviction, the first crime can carry up to 10 years and the second violation a maximum of 20 years.

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