UK

Teacher who tried to build 'army of children' jailed

Umar Ahmed Haque Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Umar Ahmed Haque planned to use guns and a car bomb to hit 30 targets

A "dangerous liar" who trained an "army of children" for terrorist attacks in London has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Umar Ahmed Haque, 25, planned to use guns and a car bomb to hit 30 targets including Big Ben in London.

The religious teacher showed Islamic State propaganda to 16 children at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, London, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said he was a "very real" threat.

He said the worst part was the deliberate and sustained grooming of children to join a "mini militia", unbeknownst to their parents who had paid for after-school classes at the mosque.

One of the children 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."

'Enjoys power'

In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said Haque wanted to do "something big" and his ambition was "extreme and alarming".

"Haque was a dangerous liar. He is intelligent, articulate and persuasive, with an easy smile," he said.

"He is narcissistic and clearly enjoys the power he wields over others."

Addressing Haque, he said: "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."

The trial heard how police and MI5 had been watching Haque since he attempted to travel to join IS in Syria in April 2016, but was stopped at Heathrow.

In bugged conversations he talked about how he was inspired by the Westminster Bridge attack in March last year.

"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," he said.

His planned targets included the Queen's Guard, Transport for London, Shia Muslims, Westfield shopping centres, Parliament and Heathrow, the trial heard.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Fundraiser Abuthaher Mamun (left) and Haque's confidant Muhammad Abid (right) were also sentenced

After the sentencing hearing, deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon, called Haque a "dangerous man" who was inspired by attacks in Europe and Westminster.

'Paralysed by fear'

"When specially trained officers interviewed the children, they described being shown by Haque horrific videos of extreme terrorist violence including executions," he said.

"They told police how Haque made them roleplay terrorists and police officers, with the children acting as terrorists being made to stab the 'police officers' to death.

"The children were paralysed by fear of Haque, who they understood to have connections to terrorists and who essentially told them that a violent fate would befall them if they told anyone what he was doing."

Haque was convicted earlier this month of two counts of preparing acts of terrorism and one count of collection of information useful to terrorism.

He had already admitted one count of dissemination of terrorist publications and three counts of collection of information useful to terrorism.

Fundraiser Abuthaher Mamun, 19, was jailed for 12 years with a further year on extended licence for helping Haque research and finance the plans.

Haque's confidant Muhammad Abid, 27, a qualified cupping therapist, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for failing to report the plot.

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