A self-styled teacher who trained an “army of children” for terrorist attacks in London has been jailed for life at the Old Bailey with a minimum of 25 years.
Islamic State (Isis) supporter 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 children as young as 11 at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, east London, where he secretly groomed them through terrorism role-play and exercises.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave told Haque: “You have violated the Koran and Islam by your actions, as well as the law of all civilised people. It is hoped you will come to realise this.”
He added Haque was: “Intelligent, articulate and persuasive, with an easy smile. He is narcissistic and clearly enjoys the power he wields over others.”
Haque also played gory Isis propaganda to pupils at the fee-paying independent Muslim school, the Lantern of Knowledge in Leyton, where he taught Islamic studies and physical education 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 the help of two conspirators.
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.”
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 monitoring Haque since he tried to travel to Turkey in April 2016.
In taped 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 that Isis 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.”
Fundraiser Abuthaher Mamun, 19, and confidant Muhammad Abid, 27, were convicted of helping Haque.
Abid, a qualified cupping therapist, was handed four years and three months in prison for failing to report the plot. Mamun, who was said to have “renounced” Haque’s extremist view of Islam, was jailed for 12 years with a further year on extended licence.