Self-styled teacher who trained ‘army of children’ for terror attacks faces jail
Islamic State fanatic Umar Haque planned to use guns and a car packed with explosives to strike high-profile targets including Big Ben.
A self-styled teacher is facing jail for training an “army of children” for terrorist attacks on 30 targets across London.
Islamic State fanatic Umar Haque, 25, planned to use guns and a car packed with explosives to strike 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.
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 by a jury after 27 hours and 22 minutes.
He was dragged from the dock by officers as he ranted: “You will clearly see Islamic State establish itself in the Arabian peninsula and that droughts will affect Europe and America. You will remember my warning.”
The full background can be reported after prosecutors chose not to seek a retrial on a count of disseminating terrorist publications at the Latern of Knowledge school, on which the jury could not reach a verdict.
Commander Dean Haydon, of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Haque’s plans were ambitious, long-term but aspirational.
“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”.
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 Commander Dean Haydon, Counter Terrorism Command
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.
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”.
Haque made them act out the roles of police and attackers in scenarios with weapons and a car bomb.
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, and Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted of helping Haque.
Fundraiser Mamun assisted with attack planning and set about making money through trading in options, while “Confidant” Abid knew what Haque was planning and gave his support.
The alleged armourer Nadeem Patel, 26, who had previously pleaded guilty to possessing a handgun, was acquitted of plotting with Haque.
When the defendants were arrested in May last year, police seized a large kitchen knife from Haque’s Ford Focus and a collection of IS propaganda from his home.
In a search of Patel’s home, police found a Walther P99 pistol and a carbon dioxide powered pistol.
Giving evidence, Haque proclaimed his support for IS but said he was only “pondering” hypothetical attacks.
His co-accused told jurors they did not believe he was serious about launching an attack.
The four defendants will be sentenced at a later date.
Patel was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for possession of a blank-firing Walther 999 handgun, adapted to discharge gas.
He has already served eight months on remand and the judge said he should be released “forthwith”.
“The context in which this prohibited firearm was held is your drug dealing, albeit minor drug dealing,” he told Patel.
But he added: “He has had to sit through a long, gruelling and stressful trial, having found himself tangled up with a terrorist.”