A 20 year old terrorism suspect from Saudi Arabia, described as a lone wolf, was arrested by the FBI today, on charges of attempting to build a bomb and targeting sites in California, New York, Colorado. Among the alleged targets were dams, nuclear plants, and the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari who has been in the United States since 2008, was studying in Texas on a student visa and has a background in chemical engineering.
Unlike recent terrorism arrests that have used FBI informants in elaborate "sting" operations the arrest of Aldawsari is alarming to counterterrorism officials because he was largely undetected until he purchased concentrated chemicals needed to make an improvised explosive device late last year and in January.
According to the FBI affidavit, Aldawsari was moving towards finally making his explosives by acquiring key components via the Internet in last past couple of months, and that he knew how to use them.
According to the affidavit, after Aldawsari purchased 10 bottles of the chemical phenol from the Carolina Biological Supply company, company employees contacted the FBI in.Greensboro, NC. According to the FBI, phenol can be used to make Tri-Nitro-Phenol (TNP) a common explosive used in military munitions. According to the affidavit, Aldawsari allegedly claimed he would use it for ""off-campus, personal research" for making cleaning substances.
An FBI affidavit unsealed today noted that "Aldawsari indicated that he has been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the United States for years"
The FBI obtained secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to enter Aldawsari's home on Feb. 14 and 17 to conduct searches. Journal entries that were photographed by FBI agents and translated allegedly reveal Aldwsari's intentions.
According to the FBI affidavit he wrote in his journal, "I excelled in my studies in high school in order to take advantage of an opportunity for a scholarship to America. … I chose [a specific Saudi sponsoring corporation] for two reasons. First [it] sends its students directly to America … second[ its] financial scholarship is the largest, which will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad. … Now after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad."
Aldawsari maintained a blog where he indicated he may want to undertake martyrdom attacks. According to the FBI translation, in a March 11, 2010 posting he wrote, "You who created mankind and who is knowledgeable of what is in the womb grant me martyrdom for Your sake and make jihad easy for me."
Aldawsari was arrested late Wednesday and has been charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction relating to his alleged purchase of chemicals to construct bombs. Aldawsari is currently a student at South Plains College in Lubbock, Texas majoring in business. He had transferred to the college from Texas Tech University where he had majored in chemical engineering according to an FBI affidavit.
When the FBI reivewed his e-mail accounts they also found in December, 2010 and January, 2011 that Aldawsari used Amazon.com to make purchases of key equipment he would need including a soldering iron, a "Chemistry Laboratory Equipment Set-All Professional", battery tester and an alarm clock. According to the FBI affadavit he allegedly purchased 3 gallons of sulpheric acid via Amazon.com on Dec. 6, 2010. Aldawsari also allegedly purchased a HAZMAT suit and gas mask from individuals on eBay.
Court-approved surveillance by the FBI also revealed that Aldawsari had conducted research on dams and reservoirs in California and Colorado and had conducted research on New York City street cameras.
Aldawsari kept his alleged notes and research in e-mail files that he sent to himself in a file allegedly named, "NICE TARGETS". According to the FBI affidavit on Feb. 6, 2011 Aldawsari sent himself an e-mail titled "Tyrant's House" which listed the address of former President George W. Bush.
Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division David Kris said in a statement,. "Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, this plot was thwarted before it could advance further."
Aldawsari is expected to have an initial appearance at the U.S. District Court in Lubbock on Friday. He could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if he is convicted on the charges. An attorney for Aldawsari could not immediately be contacted.