WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Saudi student has been arrested in Texas in a bomb plot that may have targeted former President George W. Bush and nuclear plants, U.S. authorities said on Thursday.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who was admitted into the United States in 2008 on a student visa and was attending college in Lubbock, Texas, was arrested on Wednesday by FBI agents, the Justice Department said.
He was accused of terrorism charges involving the purchase of chemicals and equipment to make a bomb, with potential targets that included nuclear power plants. One of his e-mails included the Dallas address of Bush. Another cited three former U.S. military members who had been stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison, where Iraqis faced abuses by their American jailers.
Department officials said there was no evidence the suspect was part of a militant group and he apparently had been acting alone. U.S. officials have been concerned about individuals acting alone to commit attacks in the United States.
U.S. officials said Aldawsari described his desire for violent jihad and martyrdom in blog postings and in a personal journal that listed tasks to do such as obtaining fake U.S. documents and renting several cars to hide bombs in them.
Aldawsari also sent himself an e-mail titled “Tyrant’s House,” in which he listed the Dallas address for Bush, who moved there after leaving office in 2009. Apart from publishing his memoirs, the former president has largely stayed out of the limelight.
The FBI received a report on February 1 from a chemical supplier about an attempt by Aldawsari to buy concentrated phenol, which has legitimate uses but can also can be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol, known as picric acid.
The shipment was sent to a freight company but the firm returned it to the supplier and called the police, the Justice Department said. Aldawsari told the supplier he was connected to a university and was doing “off-campus, personal research.”
If convicted, Aldawsari faces up to life in prison. He is due to make an initial appearance in court on Friday in Texas.
U.S. officials said Aldawsari has been researching online how to build a bomb using several chemicals as ingredients, and acquired most of the ingredients and the necessary equipment, an FBI agent said in a court affidavit.
In December and January, he purchased concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids, a gas mask, a Hazmat suit, a soldering iron kit, glass beakers and flasks, wiring, a stun gun, clocks and a battery tester, according to the affidavit.
It said Aldawsari also e-mailed himself instructions on how to convert a cellular phone into a remote detonator and how to prepare a booby-trapped vehicle using items available in every home.
One of his e-mails contained a message stating that “one operation in the land of the infidels is equal to ten operations against occupying forces in the land of the Muslims,” according to the affidavit.
FBI agents in a legally authorized search of Aldawsari’s apartment this month found a notebook that appeared to be a diary or journal, it said.
According to the affidavit, excerpts from the journal indicated that he had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the United States for years.
It quoted one of his entries as saying, “And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad.”
Editing by Doina Chiacu