The US authorities and its intelligence agencies are feeling terribly worried as an Iraqi man who is accused of being linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) was plotting to assassinate former president George W Bush. According to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23, the accused assassin was monitoring movements of Bush and recruiting a team of compatriots he hoped to smuggled into the US over the Mexican border.
According to Federal Burau of Investigation (FBI), it uncovered the plot through the work of two confidential informants and surveillance of the alleged plotter’s account on the Meta-owned WhatsApp messaging platform. The suspect, Shihab Ahmed Shihab, based in Columbus, Ohio, said he wanted to assassinate George W Bush because he felt the former president was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the country after the 2003 US military invasion.
The case shows how federal investigators continue to monitor threats from ISIS even as the group is believed to be severely weakened by American intelligence and military operations in recent years. It also shows how the FBI, despite its claims of being prevented from investigating major crimes because of Meta and other tech providers’ use of encryption, has been able to work around WhatsApp security by using old-school policing with sourcing of informants and tracking the metadata they can get from the messaging company.
Shihab is an Iraqi national who had been in the US since 2020 and had an asylum application pending, according to the FBI’s search-warrant application. Federal agents used two different confidential sources to investigate the plot, one who claimed to offer assistance obtaining false immigration and identification documents, the second a purported customer of the alleged people smuggler, who was willing to pay thousands of dollars to bring his family into the country.
In November 2021, Shihab revealed to the FBI insider the plot to assassinate Bush and asked the confidential source if he knew how to “obtain replica or fraudulent police and/or FBI identifications and badges” to help carry out the killing, and whether it was possible to smuggle the plotters out of the country the same way they came in after their mission was complete, according to the warrant. The alleged smuggler said he also wanted to find and assassinate a former Iraqi general who helped Americans during the war and whom he believed was living under a fictitious identity in the US, investigators said.
The alleged plotter claimed to be part of a unit called “Al-Raed”, (meaning “ The Thunder”), that was led by a former Iraqi pilot for Saddam Hussein who had been based out of Qatar until his recent death, the warrant said. As many as seven members of the group would be sent to the US to kill President Bush, according to a conversation described in the warrant, and the Shihab’s job was “to locate and conduct surveillance on former president Bush’s residences and/or offices and obtain firearms and vehicles to use in the assassination”.
After traveling to Dallas with the informant to take video of Bush’s residence, the accused took more footage at the George W. Bush Institute, according to federal agents. The Texas city was the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
In one conversation with a confidential FBI source, the suspect said he was planning to get four Iraqi national males located in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Denmark into the US, according to the warrant. In a later conversation, he claimed that one of the four was “the secretary of an ISIS financial minister”, the FBI said.
The alleged smuggler described the men as “former Baath Party members in Iraq who did not agree with the current Iraqi government and were political exiles”, the FBI said. He was planning to charge each US$15,000 to be smuggled into America, the FBI said. The Baath Party was the political organization of Saddam Hussein, who was deposed in the 2003 US invasion.
His plan, according to the warrant, was to get Mexican visitor visas for the ISIS operatives, using passport information he would send to the informant over WhatsApp, before getting them over the border. Meanwhile, he was communicating with a contact in Egypt over a fake Facebook profile, which carried a profile picture of two individual hands each holding a rose, designed to look romantic and “not suspicious”, according to the FBI’s account. In 2021, the FBI got a warrant to search that Facebook account, though it’s unclear what they obtained.
It may be mentioned here that, Raghad Hussain, the multi-billionaire daughter of Saddam Hussain is living in Jordan under direct patronization of Jordanian royals since ouster of Saddam. Jordan has also provided shelter to Ahlam Tamimi, a dangerous terrorist under FBI’s most wanted list. Sitting in Jordan, Raghad Hussain though has been secretly financing Islamic State (ISIS), it is unclear if she was funding the assassination plot of the former US president Bush.
Meanwhile, according to a source, several secret assassins belonging to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iranian IRGC and Palestinian mega-terror outfit Hamas are operating from inside the United States, many of whom had succeeded in entering the country since Joe Biden became the president and US borders were allowing illegal migrants entering the country.
The source said, secret assassins of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iranian IRGC and Hamas have different target lists such as while Al Qaeda in particular is targeting US politicians and former officials of Pakistani ISI, including several Saudi nationals, mainly responsible for Afghanistan operations as well as killing of Osama Bin Laden; Hezbollah, IRGC and Hamas have different targets.
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