Lebanese Man, On Trial in US, Admits Illegally Exporting Drone Tech to Hezbollah

The defendant and his brother reportedly acquired the technology and sent it to the terrorist organization for several years

Photo: Bigstock

A Lebanese citizen who was extradited to the US has pleaded guilty on charges of conspiring to export drone components and technology to Hezbollah, his attorney said on May 18. 

According to a press release issued by the US Attorney's Office of the District of Minnesota, Usama Hamade, 55, caused the purchase and export of inertial measurement units, used for tracking an aircraft's position, as well as a jet engine, piston engines, and recording binoculars. Digital compasses, which are used for guidance systems, were also said to have been exported.

Hamade, who did business in Johannesburg and has South African citizenship, ordered jet and drone parts using dollars transferred to South African company bank accounts, an indictment said. 

The defendant's brother Issam Hamade pleaded guilty in March to similar charges in Minnesota federal court. A third Lebanese citizen who was indicted along with the Hamade brothers reportedly remains at large. 

According to prosecutors, the brothers acquired and exported the sophisticated technology from 2009 to 2013. The brothers were arrested in South Africa in February 2018 and later extradited to the US.

Prosecutors had said in an indictment that Hezbollah has used drones for many years and that the brothers "present a danger to the United States, and to other communities around the world."

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement conducted the investigation. 

A government witness who traveled with Hamade to Lebanon in 2010 said that the defendant told him that both he and his brother were members of Hezbollah. Hamade also reportedly told an undercover agent during a Skype conversation that he would be proud to be placed on the US terror list.