An Iraqi man who sought political asylum in the United States plotted to kill former president George W. Bush, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.
Shihab Ahmed Shihab, 52, told an FBI informant that he wanted to smuggle at least four other Iraqis into the country over the border with Mexico to undertake the plot, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Columbus, Ohio.
Two of the hit team would be former Iraqi intelligence agents, while the others would be members of Islamic State or another Qatar-based hardline group Shihab called "al-Raed."
Shihab told the informant that they wanted to kill Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003, "because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq," according to the filing.
He told the informant that he was the cousin of the former Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and had killed Americans in the years following the invasion.
The investigation was disclosed in a March 23 application filed under seal, seeking a search warrant for phone records of a person identified in the documents as Shihab Ahmed Shihab, who entered the US in September 2020.
The FBI uncovered the plot through confidential informants, one of whom recorded discussions about the assassination plot with Shihab in meetings late last year and through the spring, the documents show. There is no suggestion in the documents that the former President was ever in danger.
The warrant application, filed in the Southern District of Ohio, was first reported by Forbes.
In one instance, Mr Shihab and one of the informants drove to Dallas, Texas to take video of Mr Bush's residence and the George W. Bush Institute.
In March 2022, he allegedly held a meeting in a Columbus, Ohio hotel room to look at weapons and fake law enforcement uniforms.
He now faces 10 years in prison for attempting to bring someone illegally into the US, and another 20 for aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former US official.
A spokesman for Bush told the BBC that the former president "has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities".