19-year old accused of issuing online bomb threat

September 8, 2020

By a Biometrica staffer

A teenager was accused of issuing a bomb threat online, while interrupting a virtual lecture conducted by the University of Houston that he wasn’t supposed to have access to. The 19-year old Houston resident also allegedly proclaimed his association to ISIS while he interrupted the lecture, the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas said, according to a CNN report.

Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati allegedly “Zoombombed” the lecture on September 2 saying “what does any of this have to do with the fact that UH is about to get bombed in a few days,” prosecutors said. He then repeated an Arabic phrase meaning “Islamic State will remain” before leaving the call, causing the students to gasp, prosecutors said.

The lecture was being held on video conferencing app Zoom. The term Zoombombing means a Zoom call’s meeting login information has been compromised. In Al Bayati’s case, a spokesperson from the University said while he was never enrolled as a student, the online class link was shared with him by an actual student.

Federal authorities were alerted, and Al Bayati was tracked down by the IP address he used to log into the Zoom lecture. He told the federal agent that the threat and hand gesture he made on the call was a joke between him and his friend. The gesture he made, which hasn’t been described in the report, is sometimes an indicator of radical Islamic ideology according to the criminal complaint.

“Mr. Al Bayati claimed it was a joke, but also when we look through at least a cursory review of one of the phones, there was ISIS material on there.”

The prosecutor said in court

Al Bayati was arrested on September 4 for making threats, or conveying false information to destroy by means of fire or explosives, and making a threat over interstate commerce. Federal investigators recovered three phones and a laptop from Al Bayati when he was arrested, the prosecutor said.

The agent checked Al Bayati’s phone records that showed since October 2019, he allegedly used other social media apps to find ISIS supporters, talked about helping “an individual in a certain foreign city,” and asked that individual to recite a pledge new ISIS recruits say. Al Bayati also explained to an associate “that he was ‘literally known’ as an ISIS recruiter,” according to the criminal complaint.

If convicted, Al Bayati faces a minimum of five and up to 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.