Abstract: Despite domestic prosecutors facing a growing problem of connecting the provision of remote technical expertise with criminal activities in foreign conflict zones, the work of Conflict Armament Research’s (CAR) field investigators recently aided the prosecution of Haisem Zahab, an Australian citizen. Zahab had been researching rockets and rocket guidance systems as well as other technologies and passed at least some of his findings to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. While the prosecution was not in a position to prove the group used Zahab’s work to concretely advance its weapons productions efforts, it sought to argue that this could have happened. In drawing on CAR’s extensive documentation and analysis of Islamic State rockets, Australian Federal Police were able to show parallels between Zahab’s designs and Islamic State production lines and to secure his guilty plea.

The factory floor was silent, save for the click of the author’s camera’s shutter and the wary shuffling of Iraqi Rapid Response Division soldiers manning the sector. Working his way through the repurposed former cement factory, the author documented any item of relevance to the Islamic State’s vast and sophisticated weapons production program. The group had converted the site in Al Arij, to Mosul’s south, into an expansive rocket production facility, before Iraqi government forces drove them out.

Relics of Islamic State production lines could still be seen in the machinery now abandoned and idle. The author photographed a thread-cutting machine, a large metal lathe, a sheet metal roller, a notcher that cuts steel, and several work benches. Then, there on the ground, the author found rocket motors, warhead cases in various stages of completion, fins, and nozzles. The author’s organization, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), whose job it is to trace illicit weapons flows, had already extensively documented different types of Islamic State-produced rockets since 2015.1

It was February 2, 2017, and while this factory was no longer operational, elsewhere the Islamic State still manufactured rockets by the thousands.

Three weeks later, and thousands of miles away, Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested Haisem Zahab, who would turn out to be providing information to the Islamic State for its weapons production efforts. CAR’s investigations of Islamic State rocket production, manifested in an expert witness statement and testimony to the prosecution, would ultimately help secure a guilty plea.

This article first examines the Haisem Zahab case and the ways in which CAR assisted the prosecution. Zahab designed a laser warning receiver to alert to incoming missile strikes,2 and later researched and developed rockets and rocket propellant.3 While Zahab communicated at least some of the technical details of his work to the Islamic State, it is difficult to determine whether the group used any of his findings to concretely advance their weapons production program. However, as this article will show, the commonalities AFP found between his research and development and the Islamic State’s production on the ground—as documented by CAR—render this a possibility. This is precisely what the prosecution sought to demonstrate.4

The author will then delve deeper into CAR’s wider findings about the Islamic State’s weapons programs and show how they were akin to an ‘industrial revolution of terrorism,’ with centralized management, quality control, standardization of production, and division of labor. As CAR investigators deployed on the ground have found, the Islamic State’s military production effort was propelled by the group’s efforts at research and development. As the Zahab case shows, individuals compelled by the call of the ‘caliphate’ felt the need to contribute to these efforts, even from afar.

CAR’s Assistance with the Haisem Zahab Case
AFP arrested5 Haisem Zahab in the early hours of February 28, 2017, in Young, Australia, a sleepy town of less than 10,000 people best known for its annual cherry festival. This arrest marked the conclusion of Operation Marksburg, named—like every AFP Counter Terrorism investigation—after a famous castle. An Australian citizen, Zahab, who was 42 at the time,6 was charged with “intentionally providing support or resources to a terrorist organization, namely Islamic State, knowing that the organization was a terrorist organization.”7 He had been designing a laser warning receiver that informs of incoming missile strikes and had been researching and developing rockets, rocket propellant, and rocket guidance systems as well as creating reports, videos, and tutorials based on his work.8

At a press conference organized on the day of the arrest, then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commented that Zahab “had sought to advise ISIL on how to develop high-tech weapons capability.”9 Then AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin added that the police believed Zahab had “networks and contacts in ISIL – not necessarily just in the conflict zones, but in other parts of the world as well and he has been relying on them to pass this information.”10

The evidence AFP gathered on Zahab, even if printed double-sided, would have been enough to fill hundreds of shipping containers.11 Zahab was not a foreign fighter. But even past cases built on foreign fighter returnees have been dismissed because the prosecution failed to tie them to the realities of the conflict against the Islamic State that raged in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2018.12 As CAR noted at the time,13 “domestic prosecutors face a growing problem of connecting the provision of remote technical expertise with criminal activities in conflict zones.”14

Islamic State-produced rocket, documented by the author in the Al Arij cement factory on February 2, 2017 (Conflict Armament Research)

This time, the AFP and Australia’s Federal Prosecution Service—the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions—wanted to maximize their chances of successfully prosecuting Zahab. From the evidence found on Zahab’s electronic devices and from the communications he had with individuals connected to the Islamic State, the prosecution was confident they could prove the extent of his research and the fact that he had sought to transfer the fruit of his work to the Islamic State. However, the prosecution was keen to show that Zahab had not been working in isolation but knew his research would interest the group. Australian investigators wanted to see whether there were any correlations between the designs found on Zahab’s computer and those built and used by Islamic State. So, they contacted CAR, a research organization that had been extensively documenting Islamic State military production in Iraq and Syria since 2014.15

Founded in 2011, CAR sends investigators to conflicts around the world, working in more than 20 different countries. There, investigators work with defense and security forces to gain access to all recovered weapons, ammunition, and associated material in order to thoroughly document them. Through the subsequent tracing of chains of custody, CAR identifies vectors and hubs of diversion. CAR’s database of diverted weapons and ammunition amounts to more than half a million distinct items.

Between 2014 and 2018, CAR deployed its field investigation teams across frontline positions against Islamic State forces, documenting more than 40,000 items recovered from the Islamic State. Investigators covered the full extent of the frontline, from the northern Syrian city of Kobane to the south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.16 Excluding travel and logistics, the teams spent many hundreds of days physically inspecting and documenting weapons across the region, performing more than 100 site documentations17 and visiting dozens of workshop where Islamic State forces manufactured, filled, stored, repaired, modified, or otherwise developed weapons and ammunition.

Once AFP had established that CAR held information potentially useful to the prosecution, it sought to determine whether the evidence could be used in a court of law.a

This was indeed determined to be the case, and over five days in June 2018, CAR provided the AFP with a 200-page statement with evidentiary photos, videos, and 3D laser scans. A few months later, Zahab pleaded guilty to the charges.18 CAR then provided expert testimony at the Parramatta Supreme Court sentencing hearing in May 2019. CAR’s statement and court testimony proved instrumental to the prosecution in showing similarities between Zahab’s research and the Islamic State’s production as well as the scale of the latter’s program.

The following month, the Court sentenced Zahab to nine years in a high-security penitentiary.19 The sentence, handed down on June 7, 2019, includes a statement of facts agreed between Zahab’s defense and the prosecution that relies heavily on the statement CAR provided in the way it portrays Islamic State weapon production, and the similarities found between the group’s work, and Zahab’s research.20 The statement of facts paints a portrait of a self-taught engineer obsessed by his research into rocketry and eager to share with the Islamic State what he had learned from the internet and his own experimentations.

Starting in June 2015 and continuing until April 2016, “in the late hours of the evening and early morning at his residential address,”21 Zahab researched the manufacture and performance of rocket propellant mixtures. This included “conducting flights of hobby rockets to test the accuracy […] of [a] computer software that designs and simulates rockets,” “designing unguided rockets” using this computer software, and conducting research and development on “guidance for rockets using GPS.”22 During this period, Zahab “also generated a number of written reports and a video regarding his research and development into rockets and guidance systems.”23

Zahab started by saving computer-aided-drawing (CAD) files of hobby-sized rocket bodies and nose cones on his computer to amend them and make his own versions.24 Later on, Zahab began researching rocket propellant and other explosive precursors such as ammonium nitrate. According to court documents,25 he created a written report titled “How to make Ammonium Nitrate using house hold chemicals,” consisting of instructions on how to make ammonium nitrate from various off-the-shelf chemicals as well as how to obtain it from fertilizer or instant cold packs based on several YouTube videos (wherein Zahab noted that it was “cheaper to buy ammonium nitrate, but that ‘our’ objective was to explore the chemistry”). In this document, Zahab also explored ways to produce ammonium perchlorate and potassium perchlorate—two powerful, advanced rocket propellant precursors—drawing from a 2012 blog post and a YouTube video.26

His first rocket models were partially based on existing military designs, such as the Soviet 9M22U 122 mm rocket, which is often colloquially referred to as a ‘Grad’ rocket, though the term ‘Grad’ should apply to the Soviet BM-21 truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher system. CAR investigators have observed that state and non-state forces in Iraq and other theaters would often refer to large rockets as ‘Grad’ even if they were not the 9M22U model. In June 2016, CAR documented a ledger in an Islamic State weapon production facility in Fallujah referring to the production and testing of ‘Grad’ rockets.27 Judging by Zahab’s drawings,28 however, the similar features between them and the 9M22U rocket may have been limited to their diameter.

Zahab created his first designs on the computer modeling and simulation software ‘OpenRocket.’ One of these designs had a diameter of 122 millimeters, a length of 312 centimeters, a payload of five kilograms, and a range of eight kilometers. Other designs would be created with a larger payload. He created documents detailing his designs’ “measurements, capable altitude, flight time, speed, and the material type and composition for each section of the rocket.”29

Zahab photographed and filmed the failed launching of a hobby rocket from the backyard of his residential property. (R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Facts, 629, New South Wales Supreme Court, June 7, 2019, para. 93f)

Zahab later wrote another report in which he adjusted some of the designs to plot a flight course from a designated launch point to the Syrian town of Sarrin, which at the time (August 2015) was contested between Kurdish and Islamic State forces. In the report, Zahab provided information on this particular rocket model’s grain propellant and advice on finding the right fuel propellant to match the data and ensure the model’s accuracy.30 The court documents do not reveal whether or not investigators believe Zahab sent this particular report to the Islamic State. He did, however, send previous reports to the group via electronic communication,b such as a 288-page technical report on a laser warning receiver he had built and tested.31 The laser warning receiver was designed to pick up the laser signal used to ‘paint’ a target before a missile strike.32

On Zahab’s computer’s bash history, which is the file containing previous commands entered by a user, the police found an encoded message referring to the 288-page technical report on the laser warning receiver.33 In this message, Zahab wrote that he managed to get in touch with an “administrator” thanks to a third party, who showed pictures of Zahab’s work to a “tech team” for analysis. The “administrator” asked why Zahab wasn’t here and how they could communicate with him if he wasn’t here. Zahab explained his situation, and the administrator requested a full report from him. He said he wanted to help the “techies” and liaise with them for development, but that was not possible because, Zahab had to understand, he was dealing not with a single person, but with a “corporation.”34 While it is not explicitly revealed in the court documents that the “administrator” was part of the Islamic State set-up in Syria/Iraq, this can be inferred from their communications quoted above. Furthermore, in Zahab’s sentencing document, it is stated, “He [Zahab] agreed that once he had compiled his report in relation to the receiver, he sent it to Islamic State with the intention of assisting that organisation.”35

AFP alleged that Zahab also sent this 288-page report to a U.K. national, Samata Ullah,36 who was arrested in September 2016 in the United Kingdom. U.K. investigators found Zahab’s report in the digital evidence seized from Ullah.37 Ullah pleaded guilty of the offenses of ‘membership of a proscribed organisation,’ ‘terrorist training,’ ‘preparation of terrorist acts,’ and two counts of ‘possession of an article for terrorist purposes.’38 Ullah was sentenced in the United Kingdom in May 2017 to eight years in prison. At the time, the head of the British Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command stated Ullah had “set up a self-help library for terrorists around the world and they were using his library. […] We know [the Islamic State] was using that material to both seek guidance and instruction.”39

Most of the information gathered by Zahab in instructional reports on experimental rocketry, fuel burn rates, rocket propellants, motor thrust data, and motor designs came from the internet. Zahab used mobile phone applications “to measure degrees and radians,” and he even studied computer coding languages such as Java and Python to model a guided rocket and “study the effects on fin changes, gravity and target GPS acquisition.”40 Indeed, Zahab researched GPS guidance systems for his munition designs. He studied how to steer the munition, once it would reach its apogee and begin descent on to its target.41 To test his simulations, Zahab purchased ready-made hobby rocket engines on eBay,42 used a CAD designing software to create files of “outer casings for various different sized hobby rocket engines,”43 completed those files in a 3D printing program, and “3D printed the outer casings.”44 He then documented the launch of his rockets on his property.45

In terms of fuel propellant, Zahab opted for a mixture of potassium nitrate and sorbitol,46 which are two of the precursors CAR has documented, in precise proportions, in use in Islamic State-made propellant.c Zahab went so far as to purchase a 2.5 kilogram bag of stump remover, made of potassium nitrate.47

Zahab created a video, with an Islamic State nasheed (religious musical chant) in the background, detailing how accurate the rocket simulation software he was using was “as a validation tool.”48 Zahab discussed the content of the video with Ullah, but wrote he did not know “if they [the Islamic State] actually tried it.”49 It is not revealed in the court documents whether or not investigators believe Zahab shared the video with the Islamic State.

He also displayed an interest in real-time telemetry visualisation—telemetry being “the process of recording and transmitting the readings of an instrument.”50 The prosecution alleged he was studying this topic “to assist him with his research and development” of rocket guidance systems.51

Zahab’s research stopped when the AFP executed its first search warrant on his Young property in April 201652 over the Zahab family’s activities abroad—members of Zahab’s family having traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State.53 Zahab was not arrested then, but during the search, the AFP seized a number of encrypted devices.54 Decrypting and analyzing the information they contained took several months and led to a second search on the same property, and to the eventual arrest of Zahab in February 2017.55

The statement of facts, which was agreed between Zahab’s defense and the prosecution, noted that:

“the work undertaken by the defendant and Islamic State indicates significant commonality such as:

(a) Similar design work on a ‘Grad’ rocket by the defendant to the ‘Type 1’ and ‘Type 2’ rockets developed and manufactured by Islamic State;

(b) Research by the defendant into Potassium Nitrate/ Sorbitol and Sugar (KNSB) as a composition for rock- et fuel propellant and its use by Islamic State in their rockets;

(c) Research into rocket guidance.”56 d

The prosecution wanted to show that Zahab had not been working in isolation and that he knew his research was likely to be of interest to the group, and therefore sought to pass his findings to them since the Islamic State had become more and more reliant on its indigenous weapon production program to wage its expansion war in Iraq and Syria.57 Australian investigators were now able to show that there were correlations between the designs found on Zahab’s computer and those built and used by the Islamic State. Although it would be difficult to prove that Zahab’s research was used by the Islamic State to build rockets, it would now be equally difficult to prove that it was not.58 e

CAR’s Findings on the Islamic State’s Weapons Programs
The statement of facts itself drew upon CAR’s findings in describing the Islamic State’s weapons’ research, development, and manufacture systems as “highly sophisticated and well organized, with a huge output.”59 Indeed, CAR’s findings, drawn from extensive field research in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2018, show that the Islamic State’s weapons production could be compared to an industrial revolution of terrorism. Similar to the industrial revolution of the late 18th to early 19th century that saw the end of the age of the artisan, this industrial revolution of terrorism was characterized by a strong centralized management, with quality control in place, standardization of production, and defined division of labor, all resulting in a dramatic increase in output. This was supported by a robust supply chain of raw materials and precursors and was driven forward by the group’s efforts at research and development.60

Since 2014, CAR has sent field investigation teams to embed with Iraqi security forces to gather, first-hand, all available information on weapons and ammunition recovered from Islamic State forces on the battlefield.61 During their deployments, CAR field investigation teams have gained unprecedented access to several weapon manufacturing facilities once operated by Islamic State forces, recorded extensive documentary evidence of centrally managed weapon production, and documented a wide range of Islamic State-manufactured ordnance recovered during ground combat operations.

Although Islamic State production facilities employed a range of non-standard materials and chemical explosive precursors, the degree of organization, quality control, and inventory management indicated a complex, centrally controlled industrial production system. In this system, multiple manufacturing facilities worked to produce weapons according to precise technical guidelines issued by a central authority. As CAR previously reported, “the production of any one weapon system involved the coordinated input of numerous facilities at different stages of the production cycle: from the processing of raw materials to the mixing of chemical explosive precursors to machining, assembly, and final sign-off by dedicated quality control personnel.”62

From its analysis of Islamic State documents it found in Iraq, CAR determined that in order to function, the group’s weapon production line required a sophisticated monitoring system, in which manufacturing facilities regularly reported detailed figures on production rates and quality of output to a central procurement and production authority—all of which would have been critical to forecasting material requirements and ensuring that all manufactured weapons conformed to standard specifications. Islamic State forces operated an administrative unit called the Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (COSQC), which fell under the authority of the group’s Committee for Military Development and Production, itself part of the Office of the Soldiers. The COSQC issued specific guidelines on weapon production parameters and controlled manufacturing quality.

Standardization served critical battlefield requirements. The directives issued by Islamic State forces to production facilities sought to minimize the variation among weapons and ammunition manufactured by a multitude of often distant factories and workshops.63 This enabled weapon interoperability, which meant, as CAR found, that “mortar rounds manufactured in one part of Islamic State territory were calibrated to fit mortar tubes produced in facilities located elsewhere.”64

Islamic State-produced rockets, ready to be filled in a house transformed into a weapon production facility in Mosul, Iraq, November 12, 2016 (Conflict Armament Research)

As CAR has previously stated:65

Consistency in production also requires consistency in the supply of materials used to manufacture weapons and ammunition. IS forces have demonstrated repeatedly that, to ensure all weapon systems function identically, they must be constructed from the same materials. This is particularly so of chemical precursors used to manufacture explosives and propellant. Evidence documented by CAR during 29 months of operations along IS frontlines indicates that IS forces have made one-off, bulk-procurements of chemical precursors from single suppliers. In other cases, production dates spanning a range of years suggest that IS forces have made repeated acquisitions of identical products from the same sources—almost exclusively from the Turkish domestic market. These findings indicate the mass diversion of chemical precursors and a robust supply chain extending from Turkey, through Syria, to Mosul.

The supply of homogenous raw material clearly assists IS forces in the production of uniform weapon systems. Documents issued by IS forces, and CAR’s physical examination of IS-produced weapons, underscore this. The group’s Central

Organisation for Standardisation and Quality Control (COSQC) issues blueprints for weapon construction, which provide standard parameters for the manufacture of mortars, mortar rounds, and rockets—in addition to the precise chemical mixes of explosives and propellant—using products of a specific type and origin. CAR’s examination of weapons found whilst under construction, in addition to those deployed with IS forces and recovered on the battlefield, confirm that production output conforms to these standards—usually to the tenth of a millimetre.

The functioning of this quality control system—illustrated by a stream of written directives and periodic reporting, documented by CAR—provides deep insights into IS forces’ broader command and control systems. The group is highly bureaucratic, adheres to strict reporting lines, and operates a series of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. These are evident, not only in periodic reporting by individual units on weapon production, but also in regular updates sent to central authorities on rations, ammunition expenditure rates, weapon holdings by serial number, and the health of fighters.

While technical in nature, these findings must also be viewed within the framework of the Islamic State’s efforts at the time to instill confidence among its fighters in its capacity as a ‘state’ administration. The uniform painting, labeling, and branding of Islamic State-produced weapons and ammunition contributed to this. Although these measures, such as defining the caliber and date of production, clearly benefit weapon management—notably accounting—they also speak to the Islamic State’s attempts to mirror the functions of a national military force. These factors arguably legitimized the group’s capacity and coherence in the eyes of Islamic State fighters as much as they served clear logistical functions.

As CAR indicated to the prosecution of Zahab’s case,66 Islamic State forces conducted their research, development, and production across numerous facilities throughout their territory, which can be broadly categorized as manufacturing, mixing, filling, storage, or repair, modification, and development facilities. In particular, the Islamic State performed in-depth research and testing of different weaponry systems as well as proof-of-concept testing of rockets in 2015, prior to commencing large-scale manufacture. This research and testing resulted in Islamic State forces producing two main design types of rockets on a mass scale as well as other types on a varying scale. In the lead up to this manufacture, the Islamic State performed unique research and development into specific parts of the rockets, which included the fin assembly, nozzle, motor body, warhead, fuse, electric initiator, and fuel propellant mixture and composition. The research and development undertaken by the Islamic State went beyond simple crude weapons development and involved precision manufacturing processes that were reproduced on a mass scale.

While it would have been interesting to see to what extent the prosecution may have been able to prove a direct correlation between Zahab’s work and Islamic State rocket production, this was not necessary because of the guilty plea. That said, some similarities are undeniable: in the design of some of the models; in the composition of the propellant mixture; in the timing of the testing of new models, identically designated; in the timing of the procurement of precursors and mass production of rockets; and in potential research into guidance systems. These similarities, and the fact that Zahab had been in touch with other individuals connected to the Islamic State and had effectively transferred some of his findings to them, support the possibility that his research may have contributed to the Islamic State’s weapon production program.67

With many foreign fighters and their relatives still detained in the Syrian camp of Al-Hol, and elsewhere, and their respective countries of origin still pondering what to do should they be repatriated, law enforcement agencies are increasingly faced with the question of how to build criminal cases against these individuals. In the case of Haisem Zahab, CAR has shown that the evidence gathered in active conflict zones can play a key role in strengthening foreign prosecutions, and should serve as a positive example.     CTC

Damien Spleeters is Deputy Director of Operations at Conflict Armament Research, an organization investigating the diversion of weapons, ammunition, and precursors in conflicts around the world. As a field investigator, he has worked in Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen over the past five years. He is the co-author of a dozen publications on the Islamic State’s supply chains. Follow @damspleet

Substantive Notes
[a] With senior staff having decades of combined experience in conflict areas and with standard operating procedures refined over eight years of intense deployment and field investigation, CAR works to uphold the highest standards of evidence verification and evidence chain of custody. This is because CAR’s methodology requires physical access to evidence and first-hand documentation. In an age of social media and open-source intelligence, these methods may seem out of fashion. But they allow CAR to painstakingly gather complete, precise, and verifiable data in non-permissive environments. The rifles, cartridges, missiles, rockets, chemical precursors, circuit boards, and detonators documented across the world form the more than half a million data points that allow CAR to better understand modern conflicts and what fuels them.

[b] In one communication, Zahab stated: “I took inspiration from the Iranian design. And modelled it to materials dawlah (Islamic State) had available and radius’s doable for them. But had a hard time with competancy [sic] of measurements and weights on the other side and lack of competancy [sic] of quality data verification … actually I sent them a full chemical munitions cook book which explains all that.” It can be inferred from the above that Zahab directly electronically sent the chemical munitions “cook book” to the Islamic State. R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Facts, para. 116cc.

[c] Zahab’s simulations worked with a rocket fuel’s composition that was close to the one documented by CAR in some of the Islamic State’s weapon production facilities. See R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Facts, para. 64 and para. 80d fn45.

[d] The ‘Type 1’ and ‘Type 2’ rockets are two Islamic State rocket types introduced by CAR in its nomenclature of Islamic State weapons. Conflict Armament Research, Standardisation and Quality Control in Islamic State’s Military Production (London: CAR, 2016).

[e] Zahab maintained that while he had “an intention,” he did not send information on rockets to the Islamic State, according to his sentencing decision document. This further stated: “The offender said that as far as he was aware, Islamic State did not derive any benefit from his research into rockets. However, he accepted that his research could have been used to assist them.” R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Judgment (18 and 21).

[1] Conflict Armament Research, Inside Islamic State’s Improvised Weapon Factories in Fallujah (London: CAR, 2016); Conflict Armament Research, Standardisation and Quality Control in Islamic State’s Military Production (London: CAR, 2016).

[2] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, 629, New South Wales Supreme Court, June 7, 2019, Statement of Facts, para. 17-53.

[3] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 54-98.

[4] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[5] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 122.

[6] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 130.

[7] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Decision (3).

[8] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision.

[9] “Man charged in NSW town of Young over alleged missile advice to Isis,” Guardian, February 28, 2017.

[10] “Australian charged with helping IS develop missile technology,” RTE, February 28, 2017.

[11] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[12] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[13] “Islamic State Rocket Developer Sentenced in Australia Following CAR Expert Testimony,” Conflict Armament Research, press release, 2019.

[14] See, for instance, Michael Peel, Chloe Cornish, and David Bond, “Europe confronts problem of returning Isis fighters,” Irish Times, February 20, 2019, in Europe, and Christophe Paulussen and Kate Pitcher, “Prosecuting (Potential) Foreign Fighters: Legislative and Practical Challenges,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism—The Hague, Research Paper, January 2018.

[15] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[16] Weapons of the Islamic State (London: CAR, December 2017).

[17] At CAR, the term “documentations” is used to denote site visits by staff that result in the taking of photographic evidence.

[18] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Judgment, para. 1.

[19] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Decision (4).

[20] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 5-8; para. 64-66.

[21] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 67.

[22] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 67.

[23] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 68.

[24] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 69.

[25] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 72.

[26] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 72.

[27] Inside Islamic State’s Improvised Weapon Factories in Fallujah.

[28] The R v Zahab Sentencing Decision contains the statement of facts, which includes drawings and images found by AFP on Zahab’s electronic devices.

[29] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 74.

[30] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 76.

[31] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 29.

[32] For more information on laser designators, see, for instance, “Joint Fire Support,” Joint Publication 3-09, April 10, 2019.

[33] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 31.

[34] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 31.

[35] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Judgment, para. 17.

[36] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 30.

[37] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 120.

[38] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 121.

[39] “Cardiff terrorist who hid extremist data on Bond-style cufflink is jailed,” Guardian, London, May 2, 2017.

[40] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 77.

[41] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 86.

[42] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 91.

[43] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 93.

[44] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 93.

[45] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 93.

[46] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 80.

[47] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 91, 93.

[48] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 94.

[49] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 116.

[50] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 96.

[51] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 96.

[52] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 107.

[53] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 99.

[54] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 107-112.

[55] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 117.

[56] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 66.

[57] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after the sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[58] Author interview, Australian Federal Police official, conducted after sentencing hearing, May 2019.

[59] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 5.

[60] Standardisation and Quality Control in Islamic State’s Military Production.

[61] CAR published its findings in multiple reports, notably Standardisation and Quality Control in Islamic State’s Military Production.

[62] Weapons of the Islamic State.

[63] These directives were documented by CAR in Mosul in November 2016.

[64] Weapons of the Islamic State.

[65] Standardisation and Quality Control in Islamic State’s Military Production.

[66] R v Zahab, Sentencing Decision, Statement of Fact, para. 6-8.

[67] The observations in this paragraph are based on the author’s analysis of the information provided in court in the Zahab case and the author’s analysis of the Islamic State’s weapons production.

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive updates from CTC.

Sign up