LUBBOCK (AP) — A Saudi man who was attending college in Texas was indicted Wednesday on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, after prosecutors say he ordered bomb components online and had hatched plans to attack various U.S. targets, including New York City and former President George W. Bush's Dallas home.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, could be sentenced to life in prison and fined $250,000 if he's convicted of the single count. U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings also issued an order Wednesday that prohibits the parties to the case and their attorneys from speaking with the news media.
Prosecutors say in court documents that federal agents arrested Aldawsari, a former chemical engineering major, on Feb. 23 after tracing online purchases of bomb components to him, finding extremist Internet postings he made, and digging up plans he had to attack U.S. targets during a secret search of his home, computer, e-mail accounts and diary. The FBI has declined discuss the timing of the arrest.
Authorities said a U.S. chemical company, Carolina Biological Supply of Burlington, N.C., reported $435 in suspicious orders by Aldawsari to the FBI on Feb. 1. Separately, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based shipping company Con-way Freight notified Lubbock police and the FBI the same day with similar suspicions because it appeared the order was not intended for commercial use.
Prosecutors allege that Aldawsari was influenced by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and speeches by Osama bin Laden and that he secretly planned for years to launch a terrorist attack in the U.S. According to court documents, he described in his journal a plan to travel to New York City, place bombs in several rental cars for remote detonation, and leave the vehicles in different places during rush hour.
The FBI says Aldawsari was considering a range of targets, including dams, nuclear power facilities and Bush's Dallas home.
Aldawsari wrote in his journal, "After mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad," or holy war, prosecutors contend.
A Saudi-based industrial corporation paid for his education and living expenses, and that Aldawsari wrote that he was planning an attack even before coming to the U.S. on a scholarship, prosecutors allege.
Aldawsari, who was in the U.S. on a student visa, studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University until he transferred to a nearby college to study business in January.