Washington — An Iraqi citizen living in the U.S. has been charged with aiding and abetting a plot to murder former President George W. Bush, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, unveiling an alleged scheme to smuggle four ISIS operatives into the country to kill the former president.

Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52, was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on Tuesday and appeared in federal court in Ohio in the afternoon.

An FBI affidavit in support of a criminal complaint alleged Shihab sought to smuggle four other Iraqi nationals into the U.S. across the southern border to kill the former Republican president as retaliation for Iraqi deaths during the invasion of Iraq

According to the affidavit, Shihab told a confidential source working with the FBI that he wanted to hire the informant to illegally bring ISIS associates into the U.S., and that these individuals intended to murder the former president. 

“In October and December 2021, Shihab accepted tens of thousands of dollars for the purported smuggling. In reality, the individual was fictitious, and the interaction was coordinated under the direction of the FBI,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio said in a statement.

Shihab traveled to Dallas in February of this year to surveil the president’s home and met with others in Ohio to review possible firearms and law enforcement clothes to wear, the FBI said. 

Freddy Ford, the former president’s chief of staff, said Bush “has all the confidence in the world in the United States Secret Service and our law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

Shihab came to the U.S. around September 2020 on a visitor visa obtained “through the assistance of a corrupt Iraqi American contractor at the U.S. embassy,” according to the FBI affidavit. Once in the U.S., he applied for asylum and held various jobs around Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Aiding and abetting the attempted murder of a former U.S. official like a president carries a prison sentence up to 20 years. Shihab is also charged with attempting to illegally bring an individual to the U.S., a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Scott MacFarlane, Kristin Brown and Robert Legare contributed to this report.