An Iraqi man who has been living legally in the United States since 2020 was arrested Tuesday and charged with plotting to kill former President George W. Bush to avenge the Iraq War.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab of Columbus, Ohio, was taken into custody by agents with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on Tuesday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio said.
He was charged in federal court with attempting to illegally bring an individual into the United States, a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former U.S. official, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Shihab originally entered the United States in September 2020 on a visitor visa, according to officials, and filed a claim for asylum in March 2021, which is pending review.
According to a March 23 search warrant application unsealed Tuesday and published by Forbes, Shihab told an FBI informant that he wanted to smuggle four Iraqi nationals living in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Denmark into the United States through Mexico to help him carry out the assassination.
Shihab “wished to kill former President Bush because [he] felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq,” FBI Special Agent John Ypsilantis, a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Cincinnati, said in the filing.
According to the search warrant, Shihab asked the FBI informant for details about security operations at Bush’s home in Dallas and ranch in Crawford, Texas, and even traveled there in February to do video surveillance. The informant picked up Shihab at the airport in Dallas and assisted him as he used his phone to record video of Bush’s gated home as well as the library and offices at the George W. Bush Institute, according to the filing.
At no time was there a threat to Bush, who as a former president has round-the-clock Secret Service protection.
While Shihab was not identified as a member of the Islamic State militant group by the FBI or Justice Department, the FBI’s warrant described the smuggling plot as an “attempt to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, specifically ISIS.”
Federal authorities began their investigation as a potential immigration fraud case, when Shihab allegedly intended to help a person he thought was another Iraqi citizen enter the United States for a fee of $40,000 in August 2021.
“In reality, the individual was fictitious, and the interaction was coordinated under the direction of the FBI,” the U.S. attorney’s office in Ohio said.
In November, the suspect revealed to the FBI informant that the plot to assassinate Bush would be in retaliation for Iraqi deaths during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In March of this year, Shihab allegedly met with others in a hotel room in Columbus to “look at sample firearms and law enforcement uniforms.”
According to the FBI, he told the informant that “he wanted to be involved in the actual attack and assassination” and that he “did not care if he died as he would be proud to have been involved.”