A 20-year-old Saudi Arabian student in Texas allegedly tried to acquire powerful bombmaking material and identified targets that included the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush, according to federal court documents unsealed Thursday.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari has been arrested for allegedly buying chemicals and equipment to make a bomb and researching U.S. targets.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari is scheduled to make his first court appearance today in Lubbock, charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, he faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.
A North Carolina chemical company alerted federal agents about Aldawsari on Feb. 1, after he attempted an online purchase of 10 bottles of the toxic chemical phenol. The chemical can be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol, also known as TNP, court documents say.
The company’s contact with federal agents set in motion a fast-moving investigation that uncovered e-mails, blog posts and a journal that expressed Aldawsari’s desire to wage a personal war against the U.S., the documents say. He has been enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock on a student visa.
Excerpts from the journal, written in Arabic, indicate that Aldawsari spent years preparing for what he hoped would be a campaign of terror ending in his own martyrdom, the documents say.
“Now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans,” Aldawsari allegedly wrote, “it is time for jihad.”
There was no indication in the documents or from U.S. officials that Aldawsari had formal training or contact with overseas or domestic terror groups to carry out the attacks. Assistant Attorney General David Kris said Thursday the alleged threat had been “neutralized.”
But terror analysts said the case represents a growing challenge for U.S. security officials and police to detect lone operatives before they strike.
Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University terror expert, said that while it remains unclear whether Aldawsari had the actual capacity to assemble explosives and carry out the attacks, the emerging brand of “do-it-yourself terrorists have a better chance of sneaking in under the radar.”
“The heartening development in this is that the public (the chemical company), by alerting the authorities, played a role in tripping him up,” he said.
The Carolina Biological Supply Co. said in a statement that it acted on the “suspicious” nature of the $434.57 order shortly after it was placed and recalled the material before the customer could pick it up at a Lubbock freight company. “It was returned and never delivered to Mr. Aldawsari,” the company said.
Aldawsari did obtain other materials, including a “laboratory equipment set” and other chemicals used to create TNP, all of which were recovered in a search of his Lubbock apartment, the court documents allege.
Investigators also seized e-mails that listed Bush’s home address as the “Tyrant’s House” and cited other targets, including 12 reservoir dams in Colorado and California, and nuclear power plants. The FBI said in its filing that Aldawsari’s student visa, issued out of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was current and indicated he had entered the U.S. in 2008.