The defendant, 25-year-old Umar Haque was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism between March 25 and May 18 last year. Among his intended targets were iconic British landmarks including Big Ben, the Queen’s Guard and Heathrow Airport.
Haque subjected up to 110 children between the ages of 11 and 14 to beheading videos and other violent militant propaganda under the guise of teaching Islamic Studies, the court heard.
Despite the fact Haque had no teaching qualifications, he had access to 250 young people over five years at two schools through his job as an administrator. Among the schools where he taught, was the fee-paying Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school in Leyton, and Essex Islamic Academy, also known as Ripple Road Mosque, in east London.
Police believe he potentially tried to radicalize 110 children. “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.”
The children were forced to re-enact last year’s deadly Westminster attack and were trained to build up their strength. “He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them role-play terrorist attacks. Part of that role-playing was re-enacting attacking police officers,” Haydon said.
Haydon said the children were sworn to secrecy and did not tell their parents, as they had been “paralyzed by fear.” Haque threatened that they would suffer the same fate as those in the militant videos he showed them. Thirty-five of the affected children are now undergoing long-term safeguarding measures involving social services and other authorities.
Haque first came to the attention of authorities at Heathrow Airport in 2016, when terrorist-related material was uncovered on his phone and he became the target of police and an MI5 investigation.
“We decided to intervene early and arrest him for what we thought was his longer-term aspirational attack plan and we then uncovered other offenses regarding the radicalization of children,” Commander Haydon told Sputnik.
Prosecutors said that the defendant planned to use guns and a car packed with explosives to strike targets such as Big Ben, the Queen’s Guards, Westfield shopping center, banks, and media stations.
Haque was found guilty at London’s Old Bailey Court of a number of offences including preparing terrorist acts, having previously pleaded guilty to four charges. As he was dragged from the dock he shouted: “You will clearly see Islamic State establish itself in the Arabian peninsula and that droughts will affect Europe and America.”
He will be sentenced at a later date. Two other men, Abuthaher Mamun – a 19-year-old who also taught at the mosque and 27-year-old Muhammad Abid – were convicted of assisting Haque.
Following the verdict, the UK Charity Commission confirmed that a statutory inquiry into the Essex Islamic Academy is underway. The inquiry opened in October 2017 but was not made public for fear of prejudicing the trial. An inquiry into Lantern of Knowledge has also been launched, which will be commencing on February 17.