Isis fanatic tried to recruit children for 'death squad' to launch terror attacks in London

Umar Haque showed children Isis propaganda videos and made them act out terror attacks

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 02 March 2018 15:36 GMT
Heathrow Airport was on a long list of potential targets
Heathrow Airport was on a long list of potential targets

An unqualified teacher has been convicted of trying to recruit an “army of children” to launch a series of Isis-inspired attacks on dozens of targets across London.

Umar Haque brainwashed young pupils he taught at an Islamic school and mosque and made them act out atrocities.

The 25-year-old was still ranting about the self-proclaimed Islamic State as he was dragged from the dock after being convicted of preparing acts of terrorism.

The Old Bailey heard he planned to launch simultaneous terror attacks against a handwritten list of 30 potential targets, including Big Ben, the Tube, Westfield shopping centre, Heathrow Airport, courts, Shia Muslims, journalists and far-right groups.

Haque became “fascinated” by the Westminster attack in March and discussed bringing his own “death squad” to the capital with two conspirators who helped the plot.

In a bugged conversation four days after the first Isis-claimed attack in London, he told a friend: “So what I want to personally is launch different attacks in all the different areas, one in Westminster, one in Stratford, one in Forest Gate, so many different areas, yeah.

"Immediately there's one focus to all the police. Get off the streets. Civilians get off the streets. London will be, not just Westminster attack, entire London...we're here to cause terror, my brother.

“We are a death squad sent by Allah and his messengers to avenge my Arab brothers' blood."

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In conversations recorded as part of an intelligence operation that saw conversations in a friend’s home and cars recorded, Haque was heard discussing justification for killing civilians.

Haque discussed using a car, leaving bombs in a lift, and going for "a quick spin" around Westminster, and separately compared Isis gaining more territory to “us winning the world cup”.

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, attempting to radicalise 110 of them.

​Haque was teaching pupils aged between 11 and 16 at the fee-paying independent Lantern of Knowledge school in Leyton.

He taught Islamic studies and PE between April 2015 and January 2016, with parents saying they were “horrified” after learning of his radicalisation attempts.

Haque also assumed the role of a teacher at the Ripple Road Mosque in Barking and "manipulated" children, telling them he intended to die a martyr and Isis was "good".

Prosecutors said he played terrorist videos depicting the burning of passports and beheadings with a knife or sword to "encourage them into his mindset".

Haque showed children graphic mages, including one of a dead boy, saying they would meet the same fate if they did not join him and promise to become a martyr.

Haque made the children train and act out the roles of police and attackers in scenarios involving weapons and a car bomb, while he shouted "Allahu Akhbar".

One of the boys 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 we will be physically strong enough to fight.

"Umar, apparently, he told us boys he is part of Islamic State and Islamic State ordered him to do a big attack in London.

"We took an oath like we would not tell our parents. If we did not promise, we would go down a group.”

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, told jurors the defendant intimidated the children into secrecy, adding: “He said whatever they spoke about in the mosque must stay in the mosque.”

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command, 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.

Umar Haque allegedly showed extremist propaganda to children he taught at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school

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

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

Emma Webb, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society’s Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism, said the case was a “stark reminder” over protection in schools.

“Despite much good work being done, schools continue to host or work with extremist individuals and stock extremist literature,” she added.

“This verdict is a wake-up call. Ofsted must reassess whether their inspections are thorough enough to meet present challenges, and make sure that schools are practicing what they preach when it comes to British values.”

Haque came to the attention of authorities when he tried to travel to Turkey from Heathrow in April 2016, with the route closely watched after being used by hundreds of British jihadis who joined Isis in Syria.

His apparent attempt to follow them was foiled and his passport seized, making Haque one of a growing number of terrorists who have attempted domestic attacks after failing to become foreign fighters.

Haque proclaimed his continued support for Isis while giving evidence but denied plotting terror attacks, claiming he had only been “pondering” hypothetical atrocities, but a jury convicted him after more than 27 hours of deliberations.

Asked about training the children at Ripple Road mosque, Haque claimed he was preparing self-defence” in the event of a “fascist” uprising.

A tent erected inside Ripple Road Mosque in Barking, east London, where Umar Haque groomed children as young as 11 through terrorism role-play and exercises

The mosque is now under investigation by the Charity Commission, police said, and supplementary education classes have been suspended.

When the defendants were arrested in May last year, police seized a large kitchen knife from Haque's Ford Focus and a collection of Isis propaganda from his home.

He admitted separate charges of collecting information useful for terrorism disseminating a terrorist document.

Prosecutors chose not to seek a retrial on another count of disseminating terrorist publications, on which the jury could not reach a verdict

Two co-conspirators told jurors they did not believe Haque was serious about launching an attack.

Abuthaher Mamun, 19, Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted for aiding his plot.

Mamun was found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism for helping attack planning and raised money through trading in options.

Patel was jailed for 16 months for possession of a blank-firing Walther 999 handgun, which was linked to drug-dealing.

The judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said Patel had already served eight months on remand and should be released.

“He has had to sit through a long, gruelling and stressful trial, having found himself tangled up with a terrorist,” he added.

The remaining defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

Additional reporting by PA

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