August 23, 2023 Faith Matters

University PhD student made drone to help Islamic State terror group, court told

A University of Birmingham PhD student plotted to supply Islamic State terrorists with a drone capable of delivering a bomb or chemical weapon, a terror trial jury has heard.

Prosecutors allege Mohamad Al-Bared was designing and building the unmanned aerial device, found in a bedroom at his home, when he was arrested in January this year.

The 26-year-old mechanical engineering graduate, of Kare Road, Coventry, went on trial before a jury at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday.

He denies a charge alleging he engaged in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts to benefit a proscribed terrorist organisation.

Opening the Crown’s case, prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC told the court: “His home was searched and police found a drone.

“They also found material suggesting this defendant supported Islamic State, a terrorist organisation.”

The court heard Al-Bared, who lived with his parents, was arrested while driving at the same time as the raid took place, and had a mobile phone which police also seized.

Al-Bared was studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, the court heard, and a 3D printer was also found at his home, which could be used to make parts for the drone.

Ms Heeley alleged that evidence gathered from devices said to belong to Al-Bared showed he was a supporter of Islamic State and that “this drone was being built” to help the organisation.

After showing the drone, which was contained in a large see-through plastic bag, to the jury, the prosecutor said it was of a type which has landing gear and a 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 IS enemy territory and deliver a chemical weapon or some other kind of device.”

During the opening day of the trial, Ms Heeley also alleged that Al-Bared had filled in an Islamic State application form and set up a UK-registered company to help plans for future foreign travel.

Ms Heeley continued: “He says he is not responsible for filling in the application form, but we say how else has it got there?”

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

Ms Heely said of the evidence found on an electronic device, which also included reference 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.”

Ms Heeley told the jury: “That’s the real reason this drone is being built.

“That one sentence tells you what this case is about and why we say the defendant is guilty.

“The only reasonable conclusion you can reach is you can be sure that he was preparing for acts of terrorism.”

Al-Bared, whose PhD work involved laser-based micro-drilling, denies a single charge covering the period between January 1 2022 and January 31 this year.

The trial continues next Tuesday.