Australian man jailed for helping ISIS develop rockets

Haisam Zahab also worked on a system to detect incoming laser-guided munitions

Australian weapons developer for ISIS, Haisam Zahab claimed he had been misled about the true nature of the group. AP Photo
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An Australian man was sentenced to nine years in jail on Friday for working to develop guided rockets and missile detection systems for ISIS.

Haisam Zahab, 44, was arrested by Australian federal police in 2017 after researching and developing rockets, rocket propellant and missile detectors for the extremist group. He pleaded guilty to knowingly providing support to a terrorist organisation in October last year.

The Sydney's Paramatta Supreme Court dismissed the Australia-born electrician's claims that he only learnt the true nature of ISIS after his arrest as he had previously only followed the group on social media and ignored reports from mainstream news outlets.

According to the Conflict Armament Research group, which provided prosecutors with its research into ISIS weapons, Australian police were able to establish "significant commonality" between Zahab's work and ISIS programmes.

These included: similar design work on a Grad rocket by Zahab to the Type 1 and Type 2 rockets developed and manufactured by ISIS; research into potassium nitrate/sorbitol and sugar as a rocket fuel propellant and its use by ISIS in their rockets; and research into rocket guidance.

Zahab also worked on the design of a device to detect incoming laser-guided weapons and sent a 288-page report on this via secure software to a British national who later admitted to being a member of ISIS.

“Domestic prosecutors face a growing problem of connecting the provision of remote technical expertise with criminal activities in conflict zones," said Damien Spleeters, CAR’s deputy director of operations.

He said five years of field investigations and analysis by CAR into ISIS's weapons programme allowed Australian police to draw links between the input from Zahab, who lived in the New South Wales town of Young, and rocket systems deployed by the extremist group that once controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq.

CAR's investigations would not have been possible without the Iraqi government's continued support in providing access to captured weapons, he said.

The court ordered that Zahab serve a minimum of six years and nine months before being eligible for parole which means he must remain in jail until at least December 2023, after adjusting his sentence for time spent in custody since his arrest.