COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Iraqi national allegedly linked to a bizarre plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush appeared in court Tuesday after his arrest hours earlier by FBI terrorism task force agents as part of yearlong investigation.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52, who has lived in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis since arriving in the U.S. in 2020, allegedly pursued a plan to smuggle operatives affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group into the country to murder the former president, according to court documents.
Bush was never in any jeopardy, two law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
"President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities," Freddy Ford, Bush's chief of staff, said in a written statement.
Shihab, who faces a detention hearing Friday, entered the U.S. on a visitor visa, and in March 2021, he filed a claim for asylum that is pending review, authorities said.
During Tuesday's brief court hearing, Shihab, who wore a charcoal Reebok shirt and handcuffs, was formally charged with two felonies: assisting an alien entering the United States for financial gain and aiding and abetting the attempted murder of Bush.
As a non-U.S. citizen, Shihab had the right to have the court alert the Iraqi consulate, but he declined.
The FBI, using two confidential informants, had allegedly communicated with Shihab since April 2021 when he discussed his desire to smuggle up to six Iraqi nationals through the Mexican border in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars per person, according to court documents.
By late fall, the communication veered into a discussion about an alleged desire to kill Bush, as Shihab, according to court documents, asked about levels of security at Bush's Dallas home and Texas ranch.
"Shihab advised CS1 (confidential source) that they wished to kill former president Bush because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq," the court documents state.
In subsequent discussions with the informants, Shihab allegedly said 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."
Early this year, Shihab traveled to Dallas where, in the company of one of the informants, he drove to the former president's neighborhood and the George W. Bush Institute where he allegedly recorded cellphone videos of both areas.
During a meeting in March, an informant presented Shihab with "samples" of firearms, including an M-16 rifle, and U.S. Border Patrol uniforms that could be used as part of the assassination scheme, the documents say.
"Shihab asked if (the informant) could obtain grenade launchers that can be attached to the barrel of the M-16s," according to court documents. The informant "advised that this should be possible."
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Whether Shihab had the wherewithal to carry out such a scheme is in question; the documents indicate that the FBI secretly provided the firearms, which were rendered inert, to the informant.
One of the informants financed Shihab's travel to Dallas after the suspect indicated that car trouble scuttled his plan to drive from Ohio to Texas.
During an interview with FBI agents last month, Shihab allegedly acknowledged meeting operatives associated with a large smuggling ring, but did not acknowledge being paid for his role in it.
"Additionally, Shihab did not mention the plot to assassinate former President Bush despite being asked if he had any other information about possible terrorist acts or pending attacks," the court documents state. "Further Shihab did not mention that he had physically looked at samples of firearms provided by (the informant) to be used in the assassination plot of former President Bush."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Knight said Tuesday that Shihab faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison on the immigration charge and 20 years if convicted in the plot against Bush.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ohio man allegedly linked to George W. Bush assassination plot