A plot to assassinate the former US president George W Bush was foiled by the FBI after the US authorities tracked an alleged ISIS member via WhatsApp to an Iraqi man based in Ohio. The accused, with alleged links to ISIS terrorist organisation, was taken into custody, US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Ohio on Tuesday.
The accused, identified as Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, based in Columbus, Ohio, said that he wanted to assassinate Bush as he blamed the former president for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the country after 2003's US military invasion, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week after his appearance in federal court on Tuesday, Forbes reported.
Shihab was charged federally with an immigration crime for allegedly trying to smuggle four people from Iraq into the US via the Mexican border to carry out the assassination.
The FBI uncovered the assassination plot with the help of two confidential informants and by reviewing the accused's WhatsApp messages. The FBI accessed the chats using old-school policing instead of breaking the app's encryption.
The FBI documents revealed that Shihab is an Iraqi national who was living in the US since 2000 and had a pending asylum application. The suspect had even travelled to Dallas in November to capture video of Bush's home and recruit conspirators from over the border. He had met with the conspirators in a Columbus hotel.
FBI on plotter's tail
The FBI had been keeping close tabs on the suspect without his knowledge. The US authorities were getting messages from the confidential sources and in October, the informant had slipped a phone at FBI's request, which Shihab was using. The informant revealed to the FBI that Shihab was a member of Baath and ISIS group chats on WhatsApp and had been in touch with a friend in Qatar who was a former minister under Saddam Hussein with good financial supply.
In one of the recordings by the informants, the accused claimed to have had smuggled two individuals into the US for $50,000 each. Both of them had links with Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation.
FBI's report also stated that the accused had killed many Americans between 2003 and 2006 in Iraq using explosives-laden vehicles and claimed to be a member of "the resistance."
In response to the revelation, Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford expressed confidence in the US Secret Service and the US authorities.
"President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the U.S. Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities," Ford said in a statement.