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Drone terror plot accused denies Manchester Arena attack was real

Hisham Muhammad denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.

Hisham Muhammad denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism (Greater Manchester Police/PA)
Hisham Muhammad denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

By Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent

A chicken shop worker accused of plotting a drone strike on the British Army has told jurors he does not believe the Manchester Arena terror attack was real.

Hisham Muhammad, 25, allegedly amassed an array of weapons at his three-bedroom rented terrace in Whitefield, Bury, including a tomahawk, a machete and bear claws.

He had also set about making a prototype of a drone attachment, using lollipop sticks to drop a projectile or “harmful” device on his target, it was claimed.

He had allegedly researched police and army bases, including Castle Armoury Barracks in Bury, Greater Manchester, which he visited before his arrest last June.

He was arrested by counter terrorism police after his landlord became suspicious, the Old Bailey has heard.

Giving evidence in his defence, Muhammad denied he was planning to use any of the items at his home for terrorism.

The Bermudan national admitted making £8,000 from a bogus online escort agency scam, but said most of the money was sent overseas to his family.

The father-of-two described how he became interested in “researching” so-called Islamic State after the Manchester Arena attack.

He said: “I wanted find out the truth of what actually happened. I didn’t believe it had happened and people were saying yes it did.”

Defence barrister Bernard Richmond QC said: “When you did your investigation, did you see there had been a bomb?”

The defendant said: “No. I watched two different videos of what was happening and each person was saying something different. I thought it was the Government trying to take away people’s rights.”

The lawyer said: “Who did you think they were trying to target?”

He replied: “Mainly Muslims.”

Muhammad also claimed so-called Islamic State was “created by the American Government to take away the rights of Muslims”.

He said he did not regard himself as a “gullible person” and technology could be used to make “anything look real”.

He told jurors he liked to listen to Islamic music, and looked at a video entitled My Revenge “out of curiosity”.

But when questioned on his views on radical Islam, he said: “It’s basically barbaric. I don’t think it’s right. Radical in terms of Islamic State, I don’t agree with it, killing of innocent people.”

Muhammad told jurors that when he was not working at Chicken Cottage, he liked to “challenge” himself by designing things like a “coconut hammer”.

Mr Richmond asked: “Was any of the material found designed to be used in terrorist activity?

Muhammad said: “No.”

The barrister said: “Did you intend any acts of terrorism?”

The defendant replied: “No.”

Muhammad, of Victoria Avenue, Whitefield, Bury, denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.

His cousin Faisal Abu Ahmad, 24, of the same address, has pleaded not guilty to failing to alert authorities of the alleged attack plan.

PA

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