Saudi student convicted in Texas bomb plot
HOUSTON -- A Saudi man accused of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Texas was found guilty Wednesday by a jury in federal court in Amarillo.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 22, was living in Lubbock, Texas, on a student visa at the time of his arrest last year.
Authorities began investigating Aldawsari on Feb. 1, 2011, after they were contacted by employees at chemical and shipping companies who reported suspicious orders he had made. Among the orders was one for phenol, a toxic chemical that can be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol, or TNP, similar to TNT.
Federal agents traced Aldawsari’s purchases and secretly searched his computer, email and his off-campus apartment near Texas Tech University. They found extremist Internet postings, explosive chemicals, wiring, a hazmat suit and clocks. They subsequently took Aldawsari into custody.
During the search, agents also discovered Aldawsari’s journal, in which he wrote about planning a terror attack in the U.S., according to court records.
“And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad,” Aldawsari wrote, according to a statement released by the Justice Department on Wednesday.
Sarah Saldana, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement Wednesday that Aldawsari was bent on committing “a catastrophic act of terrorism.”
“Thanks to the efforts of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, this plot was thwarted before it could advance further,” said Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for National Security, in a statement Wednesday. “This case serves as another reminder of the need for continued vigilance both at home and abroad.”
Aldawsari’s attorneys said that, because he hadn’t constructed a bomb or singled out a target, he hadn’t technically attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose but at the same time, it was a very difficult case at the outset,” defense attorney Dan Cogdell told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “We did the best we could under the circumstances.”
Cogdell said Aldawsari was likely to appeal. He described his client as “the antithesis of what you’d expect him to be.”
Aldawsari now could face up to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 9 in Amarillo.
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