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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)

"We checked his background for any criminal activity, and there was nothing," said Nail al-Jubeir, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy, who said he didn't know which company sponsored Aldawsari.

The Saudi student was arrested after he attempted to purchase over the Internet the chemical phenol, a key ingredient in the explosive trinitrophenol, or TNP, according to an FBI chemist cited in the affidavit.

The Carolina Biological Supply company reported a suspicious purchase on Feb. 1, triggering an investigation that eventually involved 200 agents and analysts, according to the U.S. official. Aldawsari told a company representative that he was associated with Texas Tech and was conducting "off-campus, personal research." He had the phenol shipped to a freight company in Lubbock, Con-way Freight, which returned it to the supplier and contacted police.

"Yesterday's arrest demonstrates the need for and the importance of vigilance and the willingness of private individuals and companies to ask questions and contact the authorities when confronted with suspicious activities," said James T. Jacks, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Aldawsari was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; if convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A surreptitious search of Aldawsari's apartment by the FBI showed that he had already purchased sulfuric acid, nitric acid, lab equipment, wiring and a hazmat suit, among other items, according to the affidavit. The chemical phenol appeared to be the last element in a potential bomb, officials said.

Aldawsari also appeared to be researching a range of possible targets, which were recorded in e-mails he sent to himself or in journal entries, according to the affidavit.

In one e-mail, under the title "Tyrant's House," he sent himself the Dallas address of Bush's home, the affidavit said. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Bush was informed of the investigation, as was President Obama. A spokesman for Bush declined to comment.

Another e-mail contained the names and home addresses of three Americans who had served in the military and were stationed at Abu Ghraib, the prison outside Baghdad where Iraqi prisoners were tortured and abused. The release of photos of the treatment of prisoners at the facility sparked international outrage.

"This case raises a unique red flag; to single out former military members and their families represents a fundamental shift in the targeting practices by Islamic radicals," said Robert Jackson, executive director of Military Families United.

Aldawsari also e-mailed himself a list of 12 reservoirs or dams in Colorado and California.

In a journal entry, Aldawsari wrote a "synopsis of important steps" that included "traveling to New York for at least a week; renting a car via the internet; changing clothing and appearance before picking up the car; using a different drivers' license of each car he rents; preparing the bombs for remote detonation; putting the bombs into cars and taking them to different places during rush hour; and leaving the city for a safe place," according to the affidavit.

Aldawsari also maintained an Arabic-language blog in which his extremism appears evident. "Grant me martyrdom for Your sake and make Jihad easy for me," he wrote in March 2010.

The affidavit also alleges that Aldawsari researched possible means of disguising a bomb.

"He viewed photos of realistic looking newborn and infant dolls," the affidavit said. "In addition, numerous websites were viewed that are related to baby accessories, including strollers . . . this web activity could indicate Aldawsari's consideration of the use of a realistic doll to conceal explosives or other weapons."

Staff writer William Branigin and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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