Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab

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Vetting Year
Time from U.S. Entry to Discovery
7 months
National Security Crime Type
Nationality of Perpetrator
Immigration Status Type
B-1 or B-2; Asylum
Agency Responsible for Failure
State Department
Opportunities Missed
Nation(s) Vetting Occurred
Arresting Agency
Criminal Charges
Attempted material support for terrorism
Case Outcome
Agreement to plead guilty as of March 2023.
Case Summary

Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab is a citizen and national of Iraq. He entered the United States in September 2020 on a B1/B2 tourist visitor visa and then promptly filed an asylum claim with USCIS before the visitor visa had expired. But according to a later FBI terrorism investigation and prosecution documents, the State Department approved this visitor visa despite Shihab’s long experience as an al Qaeda fighter who specialized in killing U.S. soldiers during the U.S. war there, as well as his purported past imprisonments by the American military and the Iraqi government.

Within seven months of settling in the Columbus, Ohio, area on the visitor’s visa (April 2021), an undercover government informant reported that Shihab was willing to help a fictitious brother of the informant illegally enter the United States through the Southern border even though Shihab was told that European officials had denied entry to the brother on grounds of his membership in ISIS.

This scheme soon led to an FBI terrorism investigation and discovery that Shihab was already well enmeshed in a global conspiracy with an overseas terrorist group fighting unit associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to smuggle them into the United States over the southern border for the purpose of assassinating former President George W. Bush as revenge for the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, court records assert. During the investigation, Shihab disclosed to the informants that he had already arranged the smuggling of three people from Iraq into the United States over the border, including an agent of the designated terrorist group Hizballah.

The alleged conspiracy to murder former President Bush involved Shihab arranging to smuggle four fighters in his old unit, “al Raed”, into Brazil and then over the Southern border, including two former Iraqi intelligence agents and one who served as the secretary of an ISIS financial minister, as well as potentially more members of ISIS and al Raed.

At issue in the vetting of Shihab for his initial visitor’s visa is the fact that, in relaying the plan to the informant, Shihab disclosed that he had killed many Americans in Iraq between 2003 and 2006 while fighting with the ISIS predecessor group known as al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). For example, Shihab told informants he’d transported vehicles and weapons from Syria into Iraq and supplied explosives inside them to AQI. But he also disclosed that American, Iraqi, Syrian, and Jordanian authorities had arrested him at various times during his war years, which if true, means that database checks or interviews with family or friends during the visitor visa process should have picked up his disqualifying history.

Security vetting for Shihab’s asylum claim would be moot because, by the time of his interview with USCIS adjudicators, the FBI was deeply involved in its undercover investigation.

It should be acknowledged here that court filings and other public information do not disclose whether his past claimed detentions by American, Iraqi, and Jordanian authorities actually happened. But the claims likely are rooted in truth because the investigation did show that Shihab was in fact affiliated enough with al Raed, as a trusted former member, that he was in actual contact with real current members and the group’s real new leader in Qatar. Shihab’s long association with al Raed and his combat against American troops should have registered in classified databases.

Shihab and the al Raed members, working through a new al Raed leader based in Qatar, planned to create a vehicle bomb for use in the attack on Bush in Dallas, Texas, an FBI complaint stated, and also “that he wanted to be involved in the actual attack and assassination of former president Bush and did not care if he died as he would be proud to have been involved in killing former president Bush.” He budgeted about $3 million in ISIS money for the operation that would be made available by the ISIS finance officer. His role was to facilitate the cross-border smuggling, then conduct surveillance and acquire the necessary weapons and explosives, and he actually traveled to Dallas to conduct surveillance.

By this time, however, the FBI informants had fully penetrated the scheme, and the FBI arrested him in May 2022. By March 2023, Shihab had agreed to plead guilty to an information charge of attempted material support for terrorism.

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