Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, of Lubbock, Texas, was arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after an intense 'round-the-clock investigation uncovered ongoing efforts to obtain and mix explosive chemicals and to identify potential targets, officials say.
Agents found an e-mail file entitled “Tyrant’s House” containing the Dallas address of former President George W. Bush. Other files included information about hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, and the names and addresses of three individuals previously stationed with the US military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
One e-mail file obtained by investigators reportedly states: “One operation in the land of the infidels is equal to ten operations against occupying forces in the land of the Muslims.”
Mr. Aldawsari’s activities came to the attention of federal authorities after he allegedly attempted to obtain a shipment of the toxic chemical phenol. The chemical is a key ingredient in the explosive trinitrophenol, or TNP.
The shipping company returned the chemicals to the supplier and called the police, according to a federal affidavit.
Further investigation revealed that Aldawsari had earlier purchased concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids – also key ingredients in TNP.
Aldawsari is set to make an initial appearance in federal court in Lubbock on Friday morning. He is charged in a federal complaint with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Despite the alleged secret nature of his efforts, the Saudi citizen apparently left a long trail of evidence for investigators. A search of his apartment revealed chemicals, beakers, wiring, a Hazmat suit, and clocks, according to the federal affidavit.
FBI agents also discovered a journal suggesting, according to the affidavit, that Aldawsari had been planning to stage terrorist attacks in the US for years. One entry allegedly says he sought and obtained an academic scholarship to South Plains College in Texas because it allowed him to come directly to the US. The scholarship, he said, helped defer other costs and “will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad,” according to the affidavit.
The journal suggests he was close to carrying out his plan – which allegedly included planting bombs in rented cars and positioning them in crowded urban areas during rush hour. His plan included escaping to a safe place.
He also reportedly considered using infant dolls to conceal explosives and targeting a nightclub with a bomb in a backpack.
“As alleged in the complaint, Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General David Kris in a statement. “This case serves as another reminder of the need for continued vigilance both at home and abroad.”
Investigators discovered that as part of his research, Aldawsari frequently e-mailed information to himself. These e-mail files helped agents discern his plans. According to the affidavit, on Feb. 11, Aldawsari e-mailed himself a recipe for picric acid, which the e-mail identifies as a military explosive.
He also allegedly e-mailed himself instructions on how to convert a cellphone into a remote detonator and how to rig an explosive device in a vehicle.
The young Saudi also allegedly created a blog on which he posted and discussed militant Islamic messages. In one message, he reportedly vowed to wage holy war and embrace martyrdom.
“You who created mankind … grant me martyrdom for Your sake and make jihad easy for me only in Your path,” he allegedly wrote.