A 22-year-old Lubbock, Texas, resident who was accused of buying chemicals to make a bomb and researching potential targets in the U.S. was convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, authorities said.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was found guilty today by a federal court jury in Amarillo, Texas. He faces a maximum term of life in prison, plus a $250,000 fine, when he is sentenced Oct. 9, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
“This case serves as another reminder of the need for continued vigilance at home and abroad,” Lisa Monaco, assistant U.S. Attorney General for Homeland Security, said in the statement.
Aldawsari was arrested Feb. 23, 2011, after a chemical supplier reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he tried to purchase concentrated phenol, which can be used to make an explosive, according to the Justice Department.
Aldawsari had conducted research on various targets and e-mailed himself information about the locations, including the Dallas home of former U.S. President George W. Bush, 12 reservoir dams in California and Colorado and American citizens who had served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Justice Department said.
He was legally allowed into the U.S. in 2008 on a student visa and was enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock, Texas, according to the statement. He started at the school in January after transferring from Texas Tech University and is listed as a general studies major, said Dane Dewbre, a spokesman for South Plains. He was a chemical engineering major at Texas Tech, according to court papers.
Dan Cogdell, Aldawsari’s attorney, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the conviction.
At the time of his arrest, Aldawsari had been researching how to build an improvised explosive device using several chemicals as ingredients, and had procured or taken substantial steps toward acquiring the necessary ingredients and equipment, including a hazardous materials suit, a soldering iron, glass beakers and flasks and a stun gun, the Justice Department said.
Aldawsari attempted to have the phenol order shipped to a freight company so it could be held for him there, the Justice Department said. Instead, the freight company said the order had been returned to the supplier, and called the police.
Aldawsari then canceled his order, placed it with another company and e-mailed himself instructions for making phenol, the Justice Department said. In December 2010, he bought concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids, which are typically used with phenol to make the explosive trinitrophenol, the Justice Department said.
A journal found in his residence showed that Aldawsari had been planning to commit a terror attack in the U.S. for years and sought a particular scholarship because it allowed him to come directly to the U.S., the Justice Department said.
Aldawsari detailed the steps he needed to complete for his attack, including obtaining a forged U.S. birth certificate, renting a car and using different driver’s licenses, the Justice Department said. He had also researched using dolls to hide explosives and considered targeting a nightclub with a bomb.
The case is USA v. Aldawsari, 5:11-cr-00015, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas.)