|Aldawsari, a Saudi national, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine [AFP]
A Saudi man has been arrested for allegedly buying chemicals and equipment to make a bomb, possibly targeting the Dallas home of former president George Bush, officials say.
Khalid Ali Aldawsari, 20, a Saudi national who came to Texas on a student visa in 2008, was arrested late on Wednesday and faces charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, the justice department said.
Aldawsari, who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, is expected to make his first court appearance in Texas on Friday.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Aldawsari wrote himself an email entitled "Nice Targets," and then listed two types of targets: hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. In another email titled "Tyrant's House," he listed the address of Bush's Dallas, Texas home.
The authorities' affidavit also alleges that Aldawsari researched using dolls to hide explosives and concealing them in a backpack to target a nightclub.
Prosecutors said Aldawsari came specifically for terror attacks and posted extremist messages on a blog, vowing jihad, a term often translated as "holy war".
"You who created mankind ... grant me martyrdom for Your sake and make jihad easy for me only in Your path," he wrote.
In another, he said: "one operation in the land of the infidels is equal to ten operations against occupying forces in the land of the Muslims."
Earlier this month, a chemical supplier reported his suspicions about Aldawsari to the FBI, after the man tried to buy large amounts of phenol, which can be used to make explosives.
He had tried to have the chemical sent to a freight company, which refused it.
Searches of Aldawsari's apartment uncovered chemicals, beakers and flasks, wiring and a Hazmat suit, among other items, the FBI said.
|Shahzad pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square in 2010 [AFP]
Agents also allegedly discovered a journal in which Aldawsari said his scholarship "will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad".
"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," he wrote, according to the FBI affidavit.
He was allegedly planning on renting several cars using different identifications, putting bombs in them and fleeing.
Last June, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in New York's busy Times Square. He is a US citizen who had come to the US on a student visa several years earlier.
Senior US officials have warned recently that, in addition to foreigners intent to strike the US, the country faces a threat from lone homegrown extremists who are inspired by al-Qaeda and are increasingly difficult to detect.
Robert Mueller, the FBI director, has described a shift in al-Qaeda's recruitment strategy, saying that since 2006, the network has focused on US citizens or legal residents instead of volunteers from the Middle East or South Asia.
Susan Collins, the senior Republican on the senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she was "alarmed" in the growth of domestic terrorism in the US.
Collins said there were 22 homegrown plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents between May 2009 and November 2010 - nearly as many as the 21 in the seven years between September 11, 2001, and May 2009.
"Aldawsari represents a worst case scenario of an individual legally entering the United States with the intent to commit a grossly illegal act of terror," Joseph Lieberman, the senate Homeland Security Committee chairman, said.
The plot "reminds us once again that violent Islamist extremists continue to look for ways to attack America and kill Americans", Lieberman said.
And Lamar Smith, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, a Republican, warned that the incident showed "we have not learned the lessons" of the 9/11 attacks and blamed "lax enforcement of our immigration laws".
"This was a victory for our law enforcement community, but a failure of our immigration system," he said.
"Until we crack down on our immigration laws that allow terrorists to enter the US, history will continue to repeat itself."