A British religious teacher was found guilty on Friday of trying to recruit Muslim children into an “army” of jihadists who would then be used to carry out a wave of terror attacks across London.
Umar Haque, 25, showed 110 children as young as 11 violent videos of beheadings and other militant propaganda, forced them to re-enact deadly attacks, and plotted terrorist acts on Big Ben, the Queen’s Guard, Westfield shopping center and other targets around the capital.
Haque, who said he was under orders from the Islamic State, instructed the children on terrorism scenarios involving guns and bombs – and is said to have had a goal of recruiting 300 jihadis out of the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school, as well as at a madrassa connected to the Ripple Road Mosque in east London.
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During court testimony in January, the court was shown a videotaped police interview with one of the children, who told them “He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight.”
He has been training us, kind of. Apparently fighting is good. If you fight for the sake of Allah, on Judgment Day when you get judged for your good deeds and bad deeds, fighting is good.
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.
We done this scenario how to fight, pretending that three boys had guns in their hand.
In one scenario, Haque said the boys would split into groups of “police” and “normal people.” After a car bomb would go off, killing “normal people,” the children would run in and attack the police along with their backup.
“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 Counterterrorism Command. “He tried and he did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14.”
Haque – who told the children that the public deserves to be annihilated, is believed to have been self-radicalized online after having been inspired by a terrorist attack last March in which Khalid Masood drove a rental car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge – killing four, before stabbing a police officer to death on parliament grounds.
The students at the mosque were taught to carry out a similar attack using guns and a car packed with explosives, as well as reenact the Westminster ramming attack.
“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.
35 of the children Haque taught are now undergoing long-term counseling with social services and other authorities, while six of them gave evidence at Haque’s trial.
Two other men, Abuthaher Mamun, 19, and Muhammad Abid, 27, were also involved in fundraising and planning attacks.
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They will be sentenced at a later date.