An Ohio FBI criminal complaint from a complex sting investigation alleges that a self-proclaimed ISIS fighter seeking asylum in the Buckeye State, who claimed to have killed “many Americans in Iraq between 2003 and 2006” while operating in a hit squad called “Thunder,” plotted to smuggle up to eight of his brethren over the southern border to kill former President George W. Bush at his Dallas residence.
The arrest warrant affidavit alleges that Shihab Ahmed Shibab originally flew into America on a tourist visa in September 2020 and then stayed to plot terrorism on a bogus asylum claim when it expired.
But because these men were probably on western intelligence radars, thus “dirty,” the terrorists who would kill a former president instead would pay $40,000 each to reach Brazil on fraudulently obtained visas and then make their way up to the U.S.-Mexico border and cross wearing faux Border Patrol uniforms, the arrest warrant affidavit alleges.
Shihab claimed he’d already successfully smuggled in two Hezbollah members and was willing to smuggle in terrorists from any group. Shihab allegedly was facilitating real Thunder operatives to come in to kill Bush as part of a plot controlled by leadership in Qatar, and he personally was going to help with surveillance and weapons provisions. But unlike the successful travel, he supposedly arranged earlier, this time Shihab picked co-conspirators living in Ohio that were working for the FBI.
The striking news that the U.S. southern border figured in this alleged terrorism plot and the smuggling of two Hezbollah operatives, and whomever else of ill repute earlier, adds to a rare body of public knowledge that 42 immigrants on the FBI’s terror watch list got caught crossing last year. These sorts of border crossings, while relatively rare and always of concern to American homeland security, must be regarded as especially problematic now because they are happening during a historic and ongoing mass migration crisis that has all but collapsed normal border management systems. They occurred, for instance, as a record 620,000 illegal border-crossers got through Border Patrol and into the interior, never caught, in 2021 alone among at least 2.5 million apprehensions since January 2021.
As the guy who wrote the book on the threat of jihadist border infiltration (America’s Covert Border War (Post Hill Press/Bombardier Books March 2021) and who has covered this border crisis, I offer several key takeaways from the government’s case against Shihab Ahmed Shihab.
Red Flag Alert: Islamists recognize the southern border crisis and see opportunity
Chief among my takeaways from this revelatory case is that America-hating violent Islamists around the world have now clearly recognized the historic border crisis as an opportunity to get into the country at a lower risk of detection than in normal times and that they know how to do it. Since President Joe Biden took office and reversed all of his predecessor’s tough deterrence-based illegal immigration control policies, Border Patrol has apprehended nearly 2.5 million people crossing the border, more than 200,000 a month recently, the highest numbers since the country began keeping records in 1960.
As I have reported extensively in my book and elsewhere, a dozen European countries suffered terror attacks and plots without end once ISIS realized that a mass migration crisis had collapsed all European Union border management systems in 2015-2016 and deliberately trained and dispatched operatives to pose as asylum seekers. Members of ISIS’s External Operations Division who posed as Syrian war refugees conducted coordinated suicide bombing attacks throughout Paris in November 2015, for instance, and went on to conduct suicide attacks in Brussels four months later. Many more attacks have followed as authorities luckily uncovered multitudes of plots by fake asylum seekers.
The Ohio case demonstrates that Shihab – and presumably the Hezbollah agents he claimed to have already smuggled over the border – understood the border was vulnerable and that the “dirty” operatives he brought in stood a smaller chance of getting caught there than if they were to fly in as he did on a tourist visa.
Victims and perpetrators alike should by now presume what can happen when land borders collapse under mass migration crises.
Evidence Suggests U.S. Border Counterterrorism Programs Foundering
Increasing evidence strongly indicates that the counterterrorism programs publicly revealed for the first time in America’s Covert Border War are foundering under the border crisis and failing to catch infiltrating terrorists.
Three recent cases show that immigrant border-crossers on the FBI terrorism watch list were mishandled during the strain of this crisis. As I report in America’s Covert Border War, most immigrant-terror suspects caught at the southern border or en route, draw FBI interrogation that almost always ends with deportations to home or third countries. If such immigrants are caught in Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica, the Americans arrange for those countries to deport them after FBI interrogations.
But that deportations did not happen in at least three cases that we now know about.
In late May, Fox News’s Adam Sabes and Bill Melugin reported that Border Patrol somehow missed that Colombian national Isnardo Garcia-Amado was on the FBI’s terror watch list after they caught him crossing near Yuma, Arizona in April. In the chaos of thousands of immigrants with whom Garcia-Amado poured through, Border Patrol released the suspected terrorist and gave him a GPS monitoring device as an alternative to detention, a common way now for the agency to process the hundreds of thousands of migrants overwhelming detention centers and normal processes.
Garcia-Amado was free inside the United States for two weeks before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him in Pinellas County, Florida on May 6, Fox News reported.
As I recently reported, a Lebanese Venezuelan migrant who swam the Rio Grande from Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, in early December 2021 was on the FBI terror watch list. Amid the border chaos that month, the FBI still managed to interview him, according to internal documents I have. The agents found “substantial derogatory intelligence” on the Venezuelan and counted him as a “high risk” and a “flight risk,” recommending that he remain in custody. Normally, such individuals are deported. But instead, ICE headquarters ordered the man released for fear that, due to his weight, he might catch Covid. He remained free last time I checked pursuing an asylum claim in Detroit.
Another fouled-up case happened on the Mexican side, where the FBI is supposed to closely collaborate. According to other documents leaked to me, Mexican immigration officials in April 2021 caught a watch-listed Yemeni named Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed just as he was about to cross into Del Rio, Texas.
Mexico did end up deporting him after the FBI-Mexico station presumably finished. But in July 2021, a moment when the border was swamped on both sides, the Yemeni came back. Rather than deport Ahmed, as I reported, the Mexicans simply let him go to clear out detention centers. A Be On the Lookout went to law enforcement along the U.S. border, which I have. It’s unclear if American law enforcement ever found him.
Now comes the Shihab case. America’s covert border war was working pretty well for all of its years in operation, keeping the nation safe. But all bets are off now. The risk is elevated with an uncontrolled mass migration crisis that was clearly started by Biden administration policies. The best way to reduce the threat is by ending the crisis, but that doesn’t appear to be a Biden administration goal at the moment.
So in the meantime, America’s homeland security apparatus will need to cope, recover its footing immediately and find ways to still operate effectively through the fog of border chaos to reverse this rapidly elevating threat.