FBI: Saudi student bought materials for bomb, considered Bush home as target

A Saudi Arabian citizen going to college in Texas charged in suspected bombing plot. (Feb. 24)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2011; 11:15 AM

A 20-year-old Saudi student who was arrested in Lubbock, Tex., late Wednesday was close to constructing a bomb and had researched possible targets, including the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush and the residences of three Americans who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, authorities said.

Khalid Aldawsari made his first appearance in federal court Friday morning in Lubbock and said he understood the charges against him. U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy M. Koenig set a detention hearing for March 11 and ordered him held in custody until then.

Aldawsari retained criminal defense attorney Rod Hobson, who issued a statement saying that "the eyes of the world are on this case and the treatment of this accused person," the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. "This is a wonderful opportunity for us to show the world how truly fair our legal system is, even to those who are accused of trying to harm our country," he said.

The defendant came to the United States as a student in September 2008, but his plan all along was to kill Americans, according to journal entries cited in an FBI affidavit. As a Saudi who entered the United States legally on a student visa, he evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis.

Aldawsari's attempts to purchase a chemical used in explosives quickly prompted calls to police from American companies, conduct that law enforcement officials praised.

Unlike in a number of recent arrests of suspected terrorism plotters, however, authorities said that Aldawsari had managed to advance his plans and assemble some of the ingredients for a bomb before the FBI became aware of him. "He was meticulous and a serious threat," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Officials said that Aldawsari appeared to be acting alone and was not in touch with any terrorist organization overseas. But his journal entries stated that he was inspired by Osama bin Laden and wanted to create "an Islamic group under the banner" of al-Qaeda, according to the affidavit.

In an e-mail cited in the affidavit, Aldawsari wrote that "one operation in the land of the infidels is equal to ten operations against occupying forces in the land of the Muslims."

Aldawsari first studied English as a second language at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He entered Texas Tech University in August 2009 to study chemical engineering, then transferred to business studies at South Plains College in Lubbock last month.

Aldawsari, whose education was funded by a Saudi corporation, wrote that he worked hard to excel in high school so he could get a scholarship to study in the United States. He refers to the Saudi royal family as the "Saululi" government, a derisive term, and called the Saudi king the "Traitor of the Two Holy Places," according to the FBI affidavit.

"And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel American, it is time for Jihad," Aldawsari wrote in his journal, the affidavit said.

A Saudi official said Aldawsari had drawn no attention before his arrest.

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