IS/Daesh Combat Drones From Great Britain

According to a new report released by the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bangladeshi immigrants with ties to companies in the UK came up with a program to ship unmanned aerial vehicles to IS/Daesh that were used by terrorists to drop bombs.

Daesh/IS got access to these UAVs through two brothers from Bangladesh named Siful Haque Sujan and Ataul Haque Sobuj. They set up companies in the UK, Spain, and Bangladesh in order to transfer money, drones, and other goods into the hands of IS/Daesh.

Daesh/IS drones

Weaponized drones are used by terrorists for both defensive and offensive operations. Knowing they had the backing of overseas sponsors, militants from IS/Daesh decided to add unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to their arsenal. Although armed and reconnaissance UAVs are mass-produced in the West, particularly in the US, IS/Daesh drones are more often homemade prototypes.

Recently, however, these devices have become a very popular terrorist weapon. Although a huge number of them were concentrated in the hands of the militants from the pseudo-Caliphate at the peak of their power, now that the terrorists have been defeated and there is no opportunity for an actual full-scale confrontation, those scattered groups of combatants are more and more often using these drones to put up a fight.

Daesh/IS drones
The Drones of IS/Daesh

The predominant model of UAV in the terrorists’ arsenal is the compact quadcopter. Mortar shells are released through a very simple mechanism attached to the drone’s external suspension, and those then fall upon ground targets.

According to the report, shipments of UAVs were delivered through a layered supply chain involving more than 16 companies from seven countries. One of the biggest contractors was IBACS IT Solutions LTD, which purchased drones and the relevant spare parts in India. Afterward the equipment was shipped to the firm’s offices in Bangladesh and the UK. Then the goods were sent to Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, where they were handed over to IS/Daesh.

IBACS network

IBACS had five subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, offices in Bangladesh and Jordan and also operated business organizations in Denmark, Australia, Spain, and the US. It was, in fact, a major international IT firm, specializing in the production of electronic equipment and software development.  The power of this company was used to try to legitimize the purchase of materials for combat drones and their shipment to Syria and Iraq for IS/Daesh.

And the brothers Siful Haque Sujan and Ataul Haque Sobuj played a key part in the tactics of this plan that was carried out via IBACS. Prior to joining IS/Daesh, they headed up a number of IT companies in various countries.

Siful Haque Sujan and Ataul Haque Sobuj assembled a team of IT and electronics specialists made up of citizens of Britain, Bangladesh, and Spain and established their company by legally registering it in South Wales. But in fact, their firm was not a business in IT, but rather a front for moving money and materials to build deadly drones for IS/Daesh militants.

IBACS strategy

Through the Bangladeshi brothers, IS/Daesh obtained flight simulators, UAV remote control devices, programming pads, heat-activated film for wrapping model aircraft, parts and components for assembling drones, lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries, antennas for receiving remote-control signals, micro-turbines, mobile transmitters for receiving signals from the drones, GPS transmitters, and other equipment.

This strategy to use IBACS to ship this technical equipment to IS/Daesh worked well until December 2015, when Sujan was killed in the Syrian city of Raqqa during an airstrike inflicted by the  US-led coalition. The media then described how he had been the primary hacker for IS/Daesh, had been behind money-laundering schemes using fake transactions on eBay, and had been one of the main figures in the terror group’s cyber-warfare efforts.

In addition, the report states that “Sujan also played a pivotal role in helping to establish and develop Dawlatul Islam Bengal, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Bangladesh.”

Ataul Haque Sobuj fled to Spain, but in 2017 he was arrested in the city of Mérida. The website for IBACS IT Solutions LTD is currently offline and no mention can be found of the company anywhere. The British courts shut the firm down two weeks after Sujan was killed. Its employees, including Sobuj, were arrested and are being tried on various charges related to financing terrorist organizations.

As it is concluded by the CTC experts IS/Daesh’s drone achievements have important implications for future drone use & hybridized threats, as the group’s drone feats could serves as a model or inspiration for other terrorists and/or nation-states and proxy groups that are developing their own hybrid warfare strategies.

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