Former US President George W. Bush speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York on September 25, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

An Iraqi asylum seeker living in Ohio was charged with aiding and abetting a plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush in revenge for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, federal prosecutors said.

Shihab Ahmed Shihab, 52, was arrested Tuesday in Ohio by agents with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the U.S. attorney's office in Cincinnati said in a statement. Shihab was being closely tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he unwittingly revealed the alleged plot to a paid FBI informant in 2021, according to court documents.

The plotters "wished to kill former president Bush because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq," FBI Special Agent John Ypsilantis said in a March 23 search warrant that was unsealed on Tuesday.

According to the FBI, Shihab, who entered the US in September 2020, conducted surveillance on Bush's home and offices in the Dallas area in February with assistance from the informant, who drove him around the city.

A lawyer for Shihab could not immediately be identified.

"President Bush has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities," Freddy Ford, Bush's chief of staff, said in an email.

Citing operational security, Secret Service Special Agent Steve Kopek declined to comment on the matter except to say the "US Secret Service takes all threats to our protectees seriously."

Four Iraqi nationals, two of whom are ex-intelligence agents, were to be smuggled into the US from Turkey, Egypt and Denmark as part of the plot, the FBI agent said. The plan involved getting the plotters into Mexico and then crossing the border into Texas, the FBI said in the search warrant.

Though Shihab was not himself a member of the Islamic State militant group, the warrant described the smuggling plot as an "attempt to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, specifically ISIS."

A Columbus resident, Shihab asked the informant for details about security operations at Bush's home in Dallas and Crawford, Texas, ranch, the FBI agent said. In February, the informant picked up Shihab at the airport in Dallas and assisted him as he used his phone to record video of Bush's gated home as well as the library and offices at the George W. Bush Institute, according to the filing.

Shihab allegedly told the informant "that he wanted to be involved in the actual attack and assassination" and that he "did not care if he died as he would be proud to have been involved." according to the search warrant.

He also inquired about how to obtain fake FBI or police badges, the FBI said. The informant has been supplying information in exchange for money for over 10 years and recorded many of his conversations with Shihab, according to the filing.

Shihab communicated with the four other plotters using a fake Facebook account with a "romantic" profile picture of two hands holding roses "so it was not suspicious," the FBI agent said. He asked the informant for help setting up the fake account under the pseudonym "Jak Jok," according to the filing.

In addition to the other plotters, Shihab also communicated with an Iraqi national and former Baath party member now living in Egypt whom he described to the informant as an experienced human smuggler "responsible for smuggling hundreds of Iraqi nationals who were former Baath party members into various countries throughout Europe" via Belarus, the FBI said.

Bush last week reignited controversy over the war when he inadvertently transposed "Iraq" for "Ukraine" while criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin for a launching a "wholly unjustified and brutal invasion."