Saudi corporation aided student charged in terror plot

By Darci Heiskell darci.heiskell@amarillo.com Published: February 26, 2011
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A major Saudi Arabian chemical company largely owned by the country's ruling royal family paid tuition, living and medical expenses for the Lubbock college student charged in a terrorism plot.

Khalid Ali-m Aldawsari, 20, a Saudi national and former Texas Tech University student living in Lubbock, was charged Wednesday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Aldawsari made an initial federal court appearance Friday, two days after authorities arrested him on charges he bought chemicals over the Internet as part of a plan to mix military-grade explosives in his Lubbock apartment. He targeted sites across the United States, including the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush along with dams and nuclear power plants, authorities said. Aldawsari's attorney, Rod Hobson, declined to comment as he left the courtroom but said in a statement that his client will plead not guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koenig asked the 20-year-old Aldawsari -- who was handcuffed with his feet shackled, and flanked by armed officers -- if he understood the charges against him, and ordered Aldawsari to remain in custody until a March 11 detention hearing.

A key global player in the manufacture of industrial polymers, SABIC acknowledged in a prepared statement sent from its Houston office late Friday that Aldawsari received money under the company's scholarship program.

"SABIC is prepared to assist law enforcement authorities upon request in the investigation of Khalid Aldawsari, the Saudi student who was arrested in Lubbock, Texas on weapons charges," the statement said.

"Aldawsari was studying in the United States on a student visa as part of SABIC's scholarship program."

Company officials declined to comment further.

A SABIC magazine article published last year said the company scholarship program sponsors nearly 400 students at 62 universities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The universities include 42 in the U.S. - Texas Tech and the University of Texas among them - along with 14 in Canada and six in the U.K. Every year since 2005, the program has sponsored an average of 100 students selected from tens of thousands in Saudi schools. According to the company website, the mission is to "prepare tomorrow's SABIC leaders for their future roles."

According to the SABIC scholarship program handbook, the company pays tuition and fees, housing and meals costs and a $1,000 monthly stipend during the foundation year of the program. SABIC also pays for all health and dental care costs along with a yearly visit to Saudi Arabia.

Aldawsari obtained a student visa, entered the United States in 2008, completed English classes, transferred to Texas Tech as a chemical engineering major in 2009 and then to South Plains College as a business major in January, according to a federal affidavit. A Saudi-based industrial corporation paid for his education and living expenses, the affidavit said.

Although SABIC is a public company, 70 percent of its shares are owned by the royal family while the remainder are held by private shareholders in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states, according to the company website.

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