An Iraqi man living in Columbus was arrested Tuesday morning by federal agents on charges that he was involved in a plot to kill former President George W. Bush.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52, is charged with attempting to illegally bring an individual into the United States U.S. and with aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former U.S. official, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Prosecutors say Shihab planned to smuggle four Iraqi foreign nationals into the United States for the purpose of killing Bush in retaliation of Iraqi deaths during “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” which was launched in 2003. Shihab reportedly planned to smuggle the four out of the U.S. through the border with Mexico after they carried out the assassination.
As part of the plot, Shihab traveled to Dallas in February 2022 to conduct surveillance of locations associated with the former president, prosecutors say. In March, Shihab reportedly met with others in a hotel room in Columbus to look at sample firearms and law-enforcement uniforms.
Shihab insinuated he had contacts with the Islamic State group, but it did not appear the plot came close to materializing, with confidential informants briefing the FBI from April 2021 through this month, the complaint said.
“President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities,” Bush’s chief of staff Freddy Ford said in a statement to CNN.
Prosecutors say Shihab entered the U.S. in September 2020 on a visitor visa. In March 2021, he filed a claim for asylum with U.S. citizenship, which currently is pending review. Prior to living in Columbus, he lived in Indianapolis, officials say.
Shihab is accused accepting money in an attempt to illegally bring foreign nationals into the country. Prosecutors say that in August 2021, he planned to help who he thought was another Iraqi citizen enter the U.S. for a fee of $40,000. Shihab provided specific instructions on how he would smuggle the person into the the country after 60 days.
He also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in October and December 2021 for planned smuggling, authorities say. However, the person to be smuggled was not real and had been created by the FBI, prosecutors say.
Attempting to illegally bring an individual into the U.S. is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former U.S. official carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Shihab was ordered held without bond by federal Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers during a short hearing in court Tuesday. Deavers scheduled a detention hearing for Friday.
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