LONDON (Reuters) - A British supporter of Islamic State was found guilty on Friday of trying to recruit children he was teaching into an“army” of jihadists to help carry out a wave of attacks across London.
Umar Ahmed Haque is seen in this undated custody photograph recieved via the Metropolitan Police, in London, Britain on March 2, 2018. Metropolitan Police/Handout via REUTERS
Umar Haque, 25, showed the children beheading videos and other violent militant propaganda, forced them to re-enact deadly attacks on the British capital and made them role-play attacking police officers.
“His plan was to create an army of children to assist with multiple terrorist attacks throughout London,” said Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.“He tried and he did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14.”
Despite having no qualifications and being employed as an administrator, police say Haque used the guise of teaching Islamic studies to groom 110 children into becoming militants at the Lantern of Knowledge, a small private Islamic school, and at a madrassa connected to the Ripple Road Mosque in east London.
Of those children, 35 are now undergoing long-term safeguarding measures involving social services and other authorities. Six of the group gave evidence at Haque’s trial, detailing how he taught them fighting was good and had given them training such as doing push-ups to build their strength.
His intention was to use them to attack London targets such as the Big Ben tower, soldiers from the Queen’s Guards, a large shopping center, banks, and media stations, prosecutors said.
Believed to have been self-radicalized online, Haque was inspired by an attack in March last year when Khalid Masood plowed a rented car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four, before stabbing to death a police officer in the grounds of parliament.
He had discussed with Abuthaher Mamun - a 19-year-old who also taught at the mosque - carrying out a similar attack using guns and a hire car packed with explosives. He had made the children re-enact Masood’s assault and told another co-defendant the public deserved to be annihilated.