16:37 GMT +326 April 2018
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    The famous Elizabeth Tower in the UK Houses of Parliament, which contains the Great Bell, known as Big Ben.

    Guilty: Muslim Teacher Planned to Use 'Army of Children' for UK Attacks

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    A "loyal follower" of Daesh, who was employed at a private Islamic school in east London, tried to recruit an "army of children" to carry out a string of terrorist attacks on landmarks in the British capital, including Big Ben.

    Umar Haque, 25, was convicted on Friday, March 2, of preparing acts of terrorism between March 25 and May 18 last year, including attacks on various "iconic" London landmarks like Big Ben and the Queen's Household Guard.

    Other targets included Shia Muslim communities, the Westfield shopping center, foreign embassies, media buildings and rallies of the English Defence League and Britain First.

    Umar Haque was employed as an administrator but was given access to hundreds of impressionable children
    © Photo : Metropolitan Police
    Umar Haque was employed as an administrator but was given access to hundreds of impressionable children

    35 Boys Will Be 'Safeguarded'

    Commander Dean Haydon, from the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command said Haque had access to 250 children and 35 boys between the ages of 11 and 14 would undergo "long-term safeguarding" after coming under his influence.

    Haque was employed as an administrator at the Lantern of Knowledge school in Leyton, east London, but he was allowed to teach "Islamic studies" to dozens of children and he carried out the same role at a madrassa at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking.

    But Commander Haydon said no parents or teachers at the school had noticed Haque was actually showing the children in his care horrific Daesh propaganda, including footage of beheadings in Syria and Iraq, and was even carrying out role-playing with them in which he mimicked terrorist attacks.

    He showed the children images of guns, burning passports and beheadings to "encourage them into his mindset" and when he showed them an image of a dead boy he warned them they would suffer this fate if they told the authorities about his plans.

    Haque, who is expected to be sentenced later, made the children do "push-ups, races and grappling" and act out the roles of police and attackers in scenarios with weapons and a car bomb while he shouted "Allahu Akbar."

    Commander Dean Haydon, of the Metropolitan Police, being interviewed about Umar Haque's terrifying plan to create an army of children
    © RIA Novosti . Chris Summers
    Commander Dean Haydon, of the Metropolitan Police, being interviewed about Umar Haque's terrifying plan to create an "army of children"

    School Passed Ofsted Inspection

    Bizarrely the trial heard the Lantern of Knowledge school where Haque was radicalizing the children underwent an Ofsted inspection during the time he was working there and was described as an "outstanding" school.

    On Friday, March 1, Ofsted published a statement following the guilty verdicts against Haque.

    "It is of deep regret that this individual was able to work within the independent school system and expose his warped ideology to children," said Ofsted's Deputy Chief Inspector, Matthew Coffey.

    "Umar Haque engaged in highly sophisticated grooming of young, vulnerable children. We welcome the conviction and are fully supportive of the work taking place across Government to ensure people like Haque aren't able to do this again. Ofsted is committed to protecting children from harm, including radicalisation. However, our ability to do so is hampered by limitations on our powers. We have no ability to inspect out-of-school settings, such as madrassas, and we believe greater powers in this area could help keep children safe in the future. We know the government is keen to address these matters and welcome their commitment to closer working," said Mr Coffey. 

    Commander Haydon said the children were "paralyzed with fear" of Haque.

    "The investigation found 110 children that he radicalized. In the classroom he was showing terrorist propaganda and beheading videos. He was also getting them to re-enact the Westminster attack and how to attack police officers," Commander Haydon told Sputnik.

    "In Haque's mind he was radicalizing and developing an army of children who would help him with his attack plan," Commander Haydon told Sputnik.

    He said 35 of the 110 had been identified as being particularly at risk and were being "safeguarded" long-term.

    Radicalized Children Gave Evidence at Trial

    Five of the children had given evidence against him, by videolink, at his trial.

    Commander Haydon explained how the police finally learned about Haque's terrifying activities at the school and the madrassa.

    "In early 2016 Haque was stopped at Heathrow airport trying to get out to Istanbul…we uncovered terrorist-related material on his mobile phone. As a result of that the Home Office invoked the Royal Prerogative which in essence means takin away his passport, which meant he could no longer travel out of the country," Commander Haydon told Sputnik.

    He said the police and MI5 both began to focus on Haque and realized he was working at the school and the madrassa.

    "We decided to intervene early and arrest him for what we thought was his longer-term aspirational attack plan and we then uncovered other offenses regarding the radicalization of children," Commander Haydon told Sputnik.

    Haque was found guilty of terrorist offenses, along with two other men — Abuthaher Mamun, 19, Muhammad Abid, 27 — but the trial heard Haque was the driving force of the group.

    "His motivation was just that same motivation that drives the banned Islamic State group and at its heart had religious, political motivations," prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told the court.

    Haque had 'Extreme Mindset'

    "Haque had developed an extreme mindset, he was then prepared to contemplate and was capable of justifying acts of extreme violence in pursuit of the cause, the cause he had come wholeheartedly to believe in. He had clearly begun to turn his mind to the commission of violent terrorist acts here in the UK," he told the jury.

    ​Haque was thrilled by the van and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament in March last year and hoped to repeat it on a larger scale, using the children as stooges. He even planned to train them to drive, even though the oldest of them was only 14.

    "What I want to do personally is launch different attacks in all the different areas, one in Westminster, one in Stratford, one in Forest Gate, one… in so many different areas, yeah," Haque was recorded as telling one of his co-defendants.

    "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," added Haque.

    Haque admitted charges of collection of terrorist information and dissemination of a terrorist publication, while Patel admitted possessing a prohibited weapon.

    Sputnik contacted the Lantern of Knowledge School for a comment but they were unavailable.

    The Charity Commission is investigating the madrasa at Ripple Road mosque, otherwise known as Essex Islamic Academy.

    "The crimes that Mr Haque has been convicted of today are horrendous, and are likely to have a devastating effect on many of the young people exposed to this harm.This is one of the worst cases we have seen with children, as young as 11, being exposed to harm through attempted radicalisation and terrorist material by this man," said Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations, Monitoring, and Enforcement at the Charity Commission.

    "The welfare of these children is of utmost importance to all agencies involved. Mr Haque's abhorrent actions don't just affect these children, but their families and the community as a whole. It is important that those affected have the appropriate support made available to them, and the Commission will continue to do all it can to support the statutory agencies to ensure that this is the case," she added.

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    Tags:
    radicalization, mosque, Muslim, Westminster attack, Metropolitan Police, Daesh, MI5, United Kingdom, Istanbul, London
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