Teacher who trained an “army of children” to carry out 30 attacks jailed for life

Umar Ahmed Haque, 25.

A man who trained an “army of children” to carry out attacks in London was jailed for life yesterday with a minimum term of 25 years.

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

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

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

He said the most dangerous part was the intentional “grooming” of children to join a “mini militia”, without the knowledge of their parents who had paid for after-school classes at the mosque.

One of the children who cannot be named told the 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.”

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In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the teacher wanted to do “something big” and his ambition was “extreme and alarming”.

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

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

Addressing Haque, he added: “You have violated the Quran and Islam by your actions, as well as the law of all civilised people. It is hoped you will come to realise this.”

Tuesday’s trial heard how the MI5 and police had been monitoring Haque since he tried to travel to join ISIS in Syria last April, but was stopped at Heathrow Airport.

In bugged conversations he described how he was inspired by the Westminster Bridge attack last March.

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.”

His planned targets included Heathrow Airport, Parliament, the Queen’s Guard, Westfield shopping centre and Transport for London, the court heard.

After the sentencing hearing, deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon, called Haque a “dangerous man” who was inspired by ISIS attacks across Europe.

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

“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 confessed to one count of dissemination of terrorist materials and three counts of collection of information useful to terrorism.

Two other associates of Haque were also jailed on Tuesday for their role.

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

Haque’s friend Muhammad Abid, 27, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for failing to report the plans.

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