A Texas court has convicted a Saudi Arabian national of plotting to build and use a bomb in an attack against America's south.
The 22-year-old terrorist, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari entered the United States in October 2008 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia legally on a student visa to study chemical engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. His tuition and living expenses were paid by a Saudi industrial company. In early 2011, he transferred to nearby South Plains College, and switched to a business major instead.
He was arrested in February 2011 after federal agents had discovered bomb-making supplies after secretly searching his off-campus apartment near Texas Tech. They also found his journal handwritten in Arabic, detailing a bomb plot, and declaring it was "time for jihad," according to court documents.
The agents had obtained a warrant to conduct the secret search in which they found chemicals to create explosives, along with wiring, a “hazmat” suit and clocks. The Saudi national had also obtained instructional videos and made a list of targets to attack, ranging from the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush, to nuclear power plants and the homes of three former soldiers stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison.
The goal: to carry out jihad. U.S. President Barack Obama was notified of the plot prior to Adawsari's arrest.
One of the chemicals he tried to purchase was a large amount of phenol, which can be used to make explosives but can also be used for other things. The would-be terrorist also bought bottles of sulfuric and nitric acids, both of which when combined with phenol produce the explosive TNP, similar to TNT. Aldawsari kept the recipe in emails and journal entries, authorities said.
In the amounts Aldawsari had purchased, the combined chemicals would have produced approximately 15 pounds of explosives, enough to create an attack similar to at least one of those that blew up the London subway in July 2005, killing and wounding scores of people.
The Carolina Biological Supply of Burlington, NC reported the suspicious $435 order on February 1, 2011 to the FBI. On the same day, shipping company Conway Freight likewise notified the FBI and Lubbock police as well, because it appeared the order was not intended for a commercial destination.
"This is something Mr. Aldawsari has been planning for a very, very, very long time,” federal prosecutor Jeffrey Haag said during his closing arguments Wednesday.
His defense attorney Dan Cogdell acknowledged in court that he had intent, but argued that he never succeeded in attacking anyone. “He's a failure academically. He's a failure at relationships,” Cogdell offered.
Aldawsari was found guilty in federal court in Amarillo on charges of purchasing chemicals online and attempting to create and use a weapon of mass destruction. The Saudi terrorist is facing a sentence of life in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on October 9.