Student used 3D-printer to make chemical weapon delivery drone for ISIS

Birmingham Crown Court has found a UK PhD student guilty of designing and building a “kamikaze” drone capable of delivering a bomb or chemical weapon for ISIS terrorists.

The jury deliberated for six hours over two days, before unanimously convicting Mohamad al Bared. He used a 3-D printer at his Coventry house to create the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Al Bared has been found guilty on a single count for engaging in conduct to prepare terrorist acts in order to benefit an organisation that is prohibited.

The 27 year old mechanical engineering student was remanded and warned that he could face a prison term of life when sentenced on 27 November.

He told jurors that he did not support ISIS, nor its goals, and that he built a drone to conduct his own research.

The University of Birmingham student who was a specialist in laser drilling claimed to also have done research on ISIS so that she could argue against ISIS’s aims at a local mosque.

But prosecutors said it was clear from encrypted online chats and other digital material that he supported ISIS, intended to make a “single-use” video-transmitting fixed-wing drone for terrorist purposes, and to travel to Africa via Turkey.

Adjourning sentence after Al Bared was convicted of preparing for terrorism between January 1, 2022 and January 31 this year, Judge Paul Farrer KC said: “The court is going to have to consider whether the appropriate sentence is one of life imprisonment.

“You have been convicted of an offence of the utmost gravity.

“A long prison sentence is the inevitable consequence of that but the length and nature of that sentence is a matter for careful consideration and the court will take that decision having received input from the Probation Service.”

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Al Bared’s UAV was found inside a bedroom during his arrest in January.

Opening the Crown’s case in August, at the start of a five-week trial, prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC told the court: “Police found a drone. The police also discovered material that suggested this defendant was a supporter of Islamic State [ISIS], a terrorist organisation.”

Al Bared was arrested by police while driving in the car he lived with at the time of the raid. Police also confiscated his mobile phone.

The prosecutor told the jury that the drone was a type with a landing gear and small digital camera.

“It had all the components required for it to fly,” Ms Heeley added. “We suggest it was being manufactured to deliver a bomb … to fly into ISIS enemy territory and deliver a chemical weapon or some other kind of device.”

Ms Heeley told the court on the first day of the trial that Al Bared filled out an ISIS application and registered a UK company in order to plan future travel abroad.

Written material saying the idea for the drone was “somewhat inspired by the design of the Tomahawk missile” was also put before the jury, in what the Crown said was Al Bared describing his building process.

Ms Heeley said of the evidence found on an electronic device, which also included references to fuses, mechanical detonators and an “explosive” head: “He is literally reporting back to someone about what it is that he is doing.

“What drone for legitimate use needs an explosive head?

“What does need an explosive head is a drone that has been designed on a missile.”

Al Bared’s barrister, Alistair Webster KC, also made an opening speech, claiming his client had studied ISIS-linked material, including video of beheadings, because he wanted to “debate” against the terrorist group’s views.

“He accepts that he is fascinated by Islamic State and its mindset, but rather than supporting it he wanted to argue against it, in the mosque, online,” Mr Webster said.

Al Bared’s extremist views were described by antiterrorism officers.

Commenting on the investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Payne, commander of the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit, said: “He has built in his home address, using a 3D printer, a drone.

“He has then researched chemicals including sarin, ricin and mustard gas.

“It is our clear view that this man was very, very dangerous, that he was building something that was a weapon to be used to deliver chemicals to cause harm to people who didn’t share his extremist views.

“This is clearly somebody who had a terrorist mindset.”

DCS Payne said the inquiry had established that Al Bared – a “very, very intelligent” student – was planning to travel abroad to Turkey and probably onwards.

“We also found an application form for Islamic State on his devices,” the officer said.

“And that alongside all the other evidence that we had gives us a really clear picture of somebody who was intent on working with a terrorist organisation to cause mass harm, and probably fatalities to innocent people.”

Updated: September 28, 20,23, 9:25 PM

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