Reporting Jack Fink
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrested a Saudi national in Lubbock who has been accused of plotting a terrorist attack. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari now sits in federal custody, facing one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
According to the FBI, one of the 20-year-old’s alleged targets was the North Dallas home of former President George W. Bush — which he referred to by address as “tyrant’s house” in an e-mail sent on February 6.
Documents say he may have tried to bomb an unspecified Dallas nightclub, set off car bombs around New York city, and bomb nuclear reactors.
He also listed 12 reservoir dams in California and Colorado as “nice targets.” The FBI also believes that he was targeting three former American soldiers who were stationed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The FBI said that Aldawsari acted alone and is not affiliated with a known terrorist group. “It got to a certain where we were very concerned about imminent harm and that’s why we decided to make the arrest,” said the FBI’s special agent in charge Robert Casey.
Aldawsari will face a federal judge in Lubbock for the first time on Friday morning. “Basically, what happens is, he goes before a federal judge and they read the allegations against him,” said former federal prosecutor Johnny Sutton. “They explain all his rights and that he has a right to an attorney, and if he can’t afford one, one will be appointed for him.”
Court documents show that Aldawsari came into the country on a student visa in 2008. He was attending Southern Plains College near Lubbock. The school confirmed that he was listed as a transfer student who had been enrolled for six weeks. Dane Dewbre, Associate Dean of College Relations at South Plains College, said that Aldawsari had registered for the spring semester in January. “He’s listed here as a General Studies major,” Dewbre said.
Prior to South Plains College, Aldawsari had been a student at Texas Tech University since August 2009. “The FBI has assured us that there was no threat to any of our campuses or even to this area, I believe,” said Dewbre. “Of course, we’re still cooperating with the FBI, on their request.”
The FBI says it was tipped off by a North Carolina chemical company, which became suspicious after Aldawsari ordered the toxic chemical Phenol, a key ingredient to make the explosive TNP. “We were able to get the shipment returned. So Mr. Adlawasri never received the shipment. And we’ve been working at the direction of the FBI ever since,” Jim Parrish of Carolina Biological Supply told CBS affiliate WFMY-TV
Aldawsari has also been accused of acquiring most of the ingredients and equipment necessary to construct an improvised explosive device, and has expressed a desire for a violent jihad. In Aldawsari’s apartment, FBI agents discovered nitric and sulfuric acids, wiring, beakers, flasks, a hazmat suit and a clock. The FBI alleges that he had been planning to attack the U.S. for years. Court documents state that Aldawsari had been researching ways to conceal explosives in infant dolls and backpacks, and had planned to use these tactics to target an unnamed nightclub.
A journal believed to belong to Aldawsari included an extremist entry that said, “After mastering the English language and learning how to build explosives to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad.”
If convicted, Aldawsari faces a maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
This is the second such terror arrest in two years. The FBI arrested 19-year-old Hosam Smadi in September 2009 and charged him with plotting to blow up the Fountain Place office tower in downtown Dallas, where about 3,000 people work during the week. Smadi later pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.