SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. federal jury convicted a Saudi Arabian citizen on Wednesday of attempting to build a weapon of mass destruction to attack several targets in the United States, including the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.
Khalid Aldawsari, 22, who was a student at South Plains College near Lubbock, Texas, referred to Bush’s home in an e-mail as a “tyrant’s house.”
Evidence presented at Aldawsari’s trial in Amarillo, Texas, indicated that he had been researching online how to construct an improvised explosive device, using several chemicals as ingredients, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In addition, Aldawsari conducted online research of several potential U.S. targets, and had described in blog posts his desire for “violent jihad and martyrdom.”
“As the trial demonstrated, Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the United States,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Monaco, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement.
Aldawsari’s plans were thwarted early in 2001, when a chemical supplier who had been contacted by Aldawsari told the FBI he was worried about an attempted purchase of a compound called concentrated phenol, an ingredient in explosives.
“Today’s guilty verdict shows how individuals in the Untied States with the intent to do harm can acquire the knowledge and materials necessary to carry out an attack,” Diego Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI field office, said in a statement.
Excerpts from a journal found at Aldawsari’s home indicated he came to the United States specifically to commit a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and even bragged about how the scholarship he received “will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for jihad.”
Aldawsari also wrote about the steps he planned to take, including obtaining a forged birth certificate, renting a car, using fake driver’s licenses, placing bombs in cars and even dealing with the difficulty of getting the bombs to their targets during rush hour.
In addition to Bush’s home, Aldawsari listed as potential targets the homes of three Americans who had been stationed while in the military at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where soldiers were accused of abusing detainees. He also listed reservoir dams in Colorado and California, nuclear power plants, and hydroelectric stations.
Aldawsari was a legal resident of the United States, in the country on a student visa. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in October.
Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and David Brunnstrom