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Iraqi man plotted to kill George W. Bush, FBI says

President George W. Bush speaks at the White House in December 2008. (Ron Edmonds/AP)
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In February, Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab and an FBI informant drove past an access gate leading to former president George W. Bush’s Texas neighborhood, according to an FBI search warrant application. Shihab allegedly recorded video of the entrance during each of his two passes.

A day earlier, Shihab, who lives in Ohio, allegedly explained to the informant that the videos would be sent to former Iraqi intelligence officers: They were members of a team planning to kill the former president.

Now, federal prosecutors have charged Shihab, 52, with participating in the alleged assassination plot and working to smuggle the assassins into the United States, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Ohio announced Tuesday.

Shihab was arrested Tuesday morning. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

A message to the George W. Bush Presidential Center was not immediately returned late Tuesday. The former president’s chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told the Guardian that Bush “has all the confidence in the world in the US Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

Shihab is an Iraqi citizen who came to the United States in September 2020 on a visitor’s visa, according to prosecutors. He’s lived in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis and worked in markets and restaurants.

A search warrant application filed March 23, which was first reported on by Forbes, details Shihab’s alleged role in the assassination attempt, citing conversations recorded between Shihab and two informants.

Last June, according to the warrant application, Shihab sought the help of one of the informants to smuggle four Iraqi men into the United States. The men, whom Shihab allegedly identified as political exiles, would travel through Europe and then to Mexico, where they’d cross the border into the United States.

It was months later, during a trip to Michigan, that Shihab told the informant why he was seeking to smuggle the men into the country, according to court records. Shihab explained that he had once helped “the resistance,” referring to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda in Iraq, the affidavit states. He also claimed he was related to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former Islamic State leader who in October 2019 died during a raid by U.S. Special Operations forces.

To members of the resistance, the affidavit states, Shihab said his nickname was “Rasoul” — Arabic for “the messenger.” He later allegedly said he was a member of a group distinct from the Islamic State called “Al-Raed,” which is Arabic for “thunder.”

Shihab also said the four Iraqis he wanted to bring into the United States were plotting to kill Bush, according to the affidavit, which states that Shihab also wanted to find a way for them to be smuggled out over the U.S.-Mexico border after the assassination. Shihab said the group wanted to kill the former president “because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq,” the warrant application states.

Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq in 2003, which launched an eight-year-long war.

During a meeting with an informant in January, Shihab said he was looking for “firearms that would be able to penetrate a vehicle,” as well as a “large van with sliding doors,” court records state. He also allegedly said that six or seven men would carry out the assassination, including members of terrorist groups and the former Iraqi intelligence officers.

Referring to himself as a “soldier,” court records state, Shihab said that “he wanted to be involved in the actual attack and assassination of former president Bush and did not care if he died as he would be proud to have been involved in killing former president Bush.” But his actual role was to make travel arrangements, find weapons and surveil Bush’s home and place of work, according to the warrant application.

In February, Shihab allegedly traveled with the informant to Dallas to take videos of Bush’s home, as well as the George W. Bush Presidential Center. A month later, according to prosecutors, Shihab looked at sample firearms and law enforcement uniforms at a hotel room in Columbus.

In addition to the alleged assassination plans, prosecutors also say that Shihab received tens of thousands of dollars for plotting to smuggle an Iraqi citizen into the United States. The person, however, was invented as part of a ruse coordinated by the FBI.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Shihab faces a maximum of 20 years for allegedly plotting to kill a former president; attempted smuggling of a person into the United States carries a 10-year maximum sentence.