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The FBI has arrested a Saudi Arabian college student in Texas who was reportedly trying to construct an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). 20-year-old Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who attended South Plains College near Lubbock, was arrested and charged with “knowingly and unlawfully attempt[ing] to use a weapon of mass destruction.” Based on emails he sent to himself, Aldawsari’s potential targets included hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, twelve reservoir dams in Colorado and California, and former president George W. Bush’s Dallas residence. Aldawsari is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. in Lubbock. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted.
According to the affidavit filed with the case, Aldawsari entered the United States in September of 2008 on a student visa. Upon the completion of an English as a Second Language program, he transferred to Texas Tech University with a major in chemical engineering, and studied there until January 2011, when he transferred to South Plains college. His education and living expenses were funded by a Saudi Arabian industrial corporation.
On February 1, 2001, officials representing the Carolina Biological Supply (CBS) company in Burlington, North Carolina notified FBI agents in Charlotte to report what they considered a “suspicious purchase” of concentrated phenol via the company’s website. Phenol is a toxic chemical with legitimate uses, but one which can also be used to created trinitrophenol, aka, T.N.P., or picric acid which can be used in explosive devices. Aldawsari then called Con-way Freight office to let them know he was shipping a package to them, and he requested they hold it until he picked it up. Con-way told him that the package had already arrived, but that they had returned it to CBS. The freight company then contacted the Lubbock, Texas Police Department who contacted the FBI. Con-way freight told the Feds they had no relationship with Aldawsari that would allow any kind of arrangement, and CBS said company policy prevents them from shipping phenol to an individual or personal residence.
The FBI has CBS contacted Aldawsari and ask him why he needed the chemical. He lied and said he was an associate with Texas Tech and wanted the chemical for “off-campus personal research.” In a subsequent call on Feb. 8, an undercover agent posing as an employee of CBS inquired as to the exact nature of that use. Aldawsari claimed he was conducting research into reducing the odor of cleaning products so he could get into a bigger college. Three days later, Aldawsari, displeased with answering questions, cancelled the order.
During an authorized search of his Aldawsari’s apartment on Feb 14, agents discovered the handwritten name, Abu Zidjan Al Nadji and the email address firstname.lastname@example.org where Aldawsari emailed himself instructions for making ”Plastique Explosive from Aspirin,” a lesson on how to booby trap a vehicle, a step-by-step process for turning a cell phone into a remote detonator, and how wire for electronic circuits used in an IED “can be obtained from household items such as ornamental light strings.” The search revealed a string of Christmas lights in the apartment. Further surveillance revealed that he used various email accounts to store information about the aforementioned “targets, explosives and explosive components,” as well as components and hardware items used to bring them together.
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