COLUMBUS, Ohio (WMCH) – FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents arrested an Ohio man Tuesday morning after the agency said he had been plotting to murder former President George W. Bush.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52, an Iraqi citizen who legally entered the U.S. and applied for asylum while settling in Columbus, was taken into custody and had a 2:30 appearance in Columbus federal court, according to U.S. Southern District of Ohio Attorney Kenneth L. Parker. Shihab now faces two federal felony charges:
- Aiding and abetting in attempted murder of a former U.S. president, with attempt to retaliate against performance of official duties during term of service. If convicted, this charge carries a maximum 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervision after release.
- Attempting to bring an alien into the U.S. at a place other than a port of entry for purposes of personal financial gain. If convicted, this carries a maximum 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervision after release.
The FBI began investigating Shihab in August 2021 as he offered to help smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. through the border with Mexico, according to an affidavit unsealed Tuesday. The agency conducted in-person surveillance, tapped and traced phone calls and had undercover informants talk with Shihab to learn more, eventually hearing him share his plan to kill the former U.S. president.
Shihab told an undercover FBI operative that he wanted to bring four more Iraqi nationals into the U.S., disclosing that they all had ties to ISIS, and were plotting to kill Bush as revenge for the deaths of Iraqis during the American invasion of the country, according to the affidavit. During this trip, Shihab also told the informant about his involvement with a mysterious group called “Al-Raed” — which means “Thunder” in Arabic — that being the unit specifically planning to assassinate Bush.
The documents also said Shihab went as far as to stake out Bush’s home and the George Bush Institute with an FBI informant in Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 8. The affidavit said the informant drove while Shihab took videos of the gate in front of the former president’s house.
Shihab had been living in both Columbus and Indianapolis, working in markets and restaurants in both cities. The affidavit said Shihab had fake divorce documents against his wife in Iraq, and tried to marry a woman with U.S. citizen status in order to obtain his immigration status.
As Shihab was living in the U.S., an FBI informant approached him and advertised themselves as someone with experience smuggling people into the country. A second FBI informant then tried to ask Shihab for help smuggling his brother with ties to ISIS into the U.S. The affidavit said that Shihab then tried to play middleman between the two FBI informants, using one’s services to get the other’s brother into the U.S.
When that second FBI informant propositioned Shihab about smuggling a fake person into the country for them, the affidavit said Shihab laid out specific instructions on how he would sneak them into the country in 60 days. He accepted at least $40,000 noted in the affidavit as an agreed payment for the smuggling, which was actually funding from FBI investigators. Shihab then gave $15,000 to the first FBI informant for them to carry out the smuggling.
When the second FBI informant told Shihab his brother to be smuggled had ties to ISIS, Shihab reassured them by explaining he was a cousin of the former leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
After business with that second informant was finished, Shihab took a car trip with the first FBI informant, during which he divulged everything about the plan to murder the former U.S. president and his ties to terrorist cells. Shihab told stories to the FBI informant of when he had been a resistance fighter against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Syria. The affidavit listed Shihab as admitting to driving vehicles packed with explosives and parking them on various roads. When American soldiers approached on the roads, the explosives in the vehicles would go off and kill them.
Of the four Iraqi nationals that Shihab wanted to smuggle into the U.S., he identified two as ex-intelligence agents for Iraq and one as the secretary of an ISIS financial minister, according to records. Once they were brought into the country, Shihab told the informant they would work to get ahold of guns and a sliding-door van to assassinate Bush. The FBI informant would keep meeting with Shihab through to March, where they provided Shihab with different options for guns to use in the attack on the former president.
The FBI approached Shihab for an interview in April, where he admitted to partaking in the smuggling operation. During that time, he did not mention the plot to assassinate Bush, according to the affidavit.