Self-styled teacher who trained 'army of children' for terror attacks faces jail

A self-styled teacher who trained an "army of children" for terrorist attacks in London will be sentenced later.

Islamic State (IS) fanatic Umar Haque, 25, planned to use guns and a car packed with explosives to strike 30 high-profile targets including Big Ben, the Queen's Guard and Westfield shopping centre.

He enlisted helpers at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, east London, where he secretly groomed children as young as 11 through terrorism role play and exercises.

Umar Haque is facing jail for training an 'army of children' for terrorist attacks on 30 targets across London (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Umar Haque is facing jail for training an 'army of children' for terrorist attacks on 30 targets across London (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Haque also played IS propaganda to pupils at the fee-paying independent Muslim school Lantern of Knowledge in Leyton, where he taught Islamic studies and PE between April 2015 and January 2016, a court heard.

Even though he had no teaching qualifications, Haque had access to 250 youngsters at two east London schools and the Ripple Road madrassa over five years and attempted to radicalise 110 of them, police said.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey, Haque was found guilty of planning terror attacks with help from two conspirators.

A notebook recovered from Haque's home (Metropolitan Police/PA)
A notebook recovered from Haque's home (Metropolitan Police/PA)

On Haque's "ambitious" plans, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: "His aim was to create an army of children to assist with more terrorist attacks throughout London.

"It was apparent he was in the early stages of this long-term attack plan at multiple sites using multiple weapons and assisted by children he had radicalised.

"He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them role play attacks. Part of that role play was re-enacting attacking police officers.

"He is a really dangerous individual. He could have moved at any time."

Mr Haydon said "crucial work" was ongoing to safeguard 35 children affected by Haque's indoctrination, which had left them "almost paralysed with fear".

After officers broke their "wall of silence", parents at the £3,000-a-year Lantern of Knowledge school were "horrified".

The trial had heard how police and MI5 had been on to Haque since he tried to travel to Turkey in April 2016.

In bugged conversations with his conspirators, he talked about being inspired by the Westminster Bridge atrocity in March last year.

Haque said: "We are here to cause terror, my brother. We are a death squad sent by Allah and his messengers to avenge my Arab brothers' blood ..."

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told jurors the targets for Haque's "warped" ideology were civilian as well as police.

Muhammad Abid, 27, was convicted of helping Haque (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Muhammad Abid, 27, was convicted of helping Haque (Metropolitan Police/PA)

His handwritten hit list included the Queen's Guard, courts, Transport for London, Shia Muslims, Westfield, City banks, Heathrow, Parliament, Big Ben, the media, embassies and the English Defence League or Britain First.

In the months before his arrest, he bragged about recruiting 16 children, telling Ripple Road youngsters he intended to die a martyr and IS was "good".

One of the youngsters later told police: "Umar has been teaching us how to fight, do push-ups, given strength and within six years he was planning to do a big attack on London.

"He wants a group of 300 men. He's training us now so by the time I'm in Year 10 (aged 14-15) we will be physically strong enough to fight."

Abuthaher Mamun, 19, was convicted of helping Umar Haque (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Abuthaher Mamun, 19, tried to make money to fund the attack by trading in options (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Fundraiser Abuthaher Mamun, 19, and confidant Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted of helping Haque.

The defendants will be sentenced by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave at the Old Bailey later.

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