Umar Haque – who wanted 11 to 14-year-olds to help him attack London’s Heathrow Airport and Big Ben – showed pupils beheading videos and made them reenact knife attacks in role play games
A “Islamic Teacher” who attempted to build an army of child jihadists for terror attacks in London has been jailed for life.
Umar Haque, 25, taught an Islamic studies class despite having no teaching qualifications and being employed as an administrator.
Police believe Haque tried to radicalise at least 110 children, 35 of whom are now receiving long-term support.
Pupils were ‘paralysed with fear’ by the 25-year-old who used ISIS propaganda to brainwash them.
He wanted the 11 to 14-year-olds to help him attack Heathrow Airport, the Queen’s Guard, Big Ben and other London sites after becoming ‘obsessed’ with the Westminster Bridge attack last March.
Today he was jailed for life at the Old Bailey with a minimum term of 25 years.
Despite having no formal credentials, Haque taught at three London schools – the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic private school, in Leyton, the Ripple Road Mosque madrassa, in Barking, and Hafs Academy Islamic school, in Newham – where he had access to 250 children from 2012 to 2017.
Haque, who described himself as a ‘loyal follower’ of ISIS, made students act out terrorist attacks at the Ripple Road Mosque and showed Islamic State propaganda videos including beheadings to students at the Lantern of Knowledge school.
There were no reports from children or teachers at the schools of Haque’s behaviour, and there was said to be a ‘wall of silence’ from the fearful pupils.
Haque attempted to raise an an “army of children” by making them reenact knife attacks on police during role play exercises.
While grooming the children, the 25-year-old was preparing to carry out an attack in the capital himself after being inspired by the Westminster Bridge terror attack.
He had a large knife stashed in his Ford Focus car when he was arrested last May.
Haque was helped with his planning and fundraising by Abuthaher Mamun, 19, while he confided in Muhammad Abid, 27, both who he knew from the Ripple Road Mosque.
Haque had access to 250 children while working at the mosque and two schools in east London – 110 of whom he tried to radicalise and “prepare for martyrdom”.
The court heard as many as 16 youngsters were taught every Thursday and Friday between 5pm and 7pm by Haque, with ISIS material broadcast during the last hour.
Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC read from a report which outlined the effect being exposed to the violent propaganda had on the boys.
He said: “He played IS videos to that cohort, during these recordings he spoke to 16 children in his class.
“As a result of contact with the defendant Haque, the children spoke of their extreme frustration and confusion at their place within their religion.
“They spoke about how they knew what they saw was wrong but they were left feeling conflicted and without answers.
“They were left particularly vulnerable to further radicalisation.
“Some have spoken about having flashbacks and nightmares of video recordings they were shown by the defendant and the punishment they might receive in the afterlife.
“The possible negative impact in future, in his view, was their sense of self identity which had been greatly impacted by their exposure to Mr Haque and his teachings.
“How they make sense of their internal conflict created an us and them, East and West, ideology they are struggling to resolve left them traumatised.”
Haque worked at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school in Leyton, east London from 2015 to 2016 and worked as an administrator at the Ripple Road Mosque.
Haque warned children if they mentioned what they saw outside the mosque they would “suffer after death” and go to hell, or their homes would burn down.
The boys were made to do push-ups as he shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and staged role play sessions with scenarios involving weapons, a car bomb and attacks on police, Christians and Americans.
Counter-terror police and MI5 investigated Haque after he was stopped at Heathrow trying to board a flight to Istanbul in April 2016.
Mr Heywood QC added: “Having been stopped at Heathrow the acts escalated.
“After his refusal of travel he returns home and it is then his extreme interest becomes more focused.”
Richard Thomas, defending Haque, said: “The evidence was there was a flurry of activity since the Westminster attack but the evidence of behaviour after the Westminster attack was that these scenarios were about an attack in the future.”
Rajiv Menon, defending Mamun, said: “He was more of a foot soldier, Mr Haque was an older brother or father figure but that soon became more insidious as it went on.
“He has abandoned and renounced those extremist views and that pernicious extreme interpretation of Islam.
“This is a genuine change of mindset. He posed no significant future danger to the public.”
Abid wrote a letter stating he wanted to represent himself and reading from notes told the judge he too was influenced by Haque.
He said: “I do have remorse and I wish I could have done more to prevent it.
“My relationship with Umar Haque was a complicated one. I view him as a friend but I was in a difficult position.”
Abid’s home and car, and Haque’s car, were bugged from late March 2017, which revealed the plans.
All four men were arrested on May 17 last year.
The jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for six days before returning guilty verdicts against Haque, Mamun and Abid, all of east London, on March 2.
Haque, of Forest Gate, and Mamun, of Barking, were convicted of preparation of terrorist acts between March 25 and May 18 last year.
Haque was found guilty of a further count of preparation of terrorist acts, between December 1, 2016, and May 18, 2017, for leading exercises in physical training and role play at the Ripple Road Mosque.
But the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Haque for one count of dissemination of terrorist publications, and was dismissed.
The charge alleged he showed a YouTube video featuring “people with guns, burning passports and a beheading” at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic School between July 2015 and February 2016.
Abid, of Newham, was found guilty of one count of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism.
Haque was found not guilty of one count of conspiracy to possess a firearm.
Haque had admitted one count of dissemination of terrorist publications and four charges of collection of information, while Patel admitted possession of a firearm.