A 25-year-old British man was found guilty on Thursday of trying to recruit children to carry out attacks in the British capital.
London's Old Bailey Court heard how Umar Haque was "fascinated by the warped and extreme ideology" of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group. Haque was accused of trying to radicalize children he taught at a mosque and two private Islamic schools.
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Despite having no teaching qualifications and being employed as an administrator, Haque used the guise of teaching Islamic studies to indoctrinate children into becoming militants for IS. His tactics included showing the children violent beheading videos and forcing them to re-enact attacks on London, such as the one on Westminster Bridge last year.
"His plan was to create an army of children to assist with multiple terrorist attacks throughout London," the head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, Dean Haydon, said. "He tried and he did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14."
Prosecutors said Haque had targeted popular landmarks in the British capital, including Big Ben, Heathrow Airport, and the Westfield shopping center in east London.
Children 'paralyzed by fear'
Some 110 children had come into contact with Haque's teachings in the past year, authorities said. Of those, 35 are undergoing long-term safeguarding measures through social services and other authorities.
Six others gave evidence during Haque's trial, detailing how he made them do push-ups and taught them to fight.
Haydon told the court that the children had been "paralyzed by fear" into not telling their parents or other teachers, warning that if they did they would suffer the same fate as those in the videos he had shown them.
Questions were also raised over why no issues had been noted at the school, which had been rated outstanding by government inspectors.
"He shouldn't have been teaching, so that's a concern," the Metropolitan Police's Haydon said. "We have had challenges with both the local community and some of these institutions."
As he was dragged from the dock by court officers, Haque yelled at the court: "You will clearly see Islamic State establish itself in the Arabian peninsula and that droughts will affect Europe and America."
Two other men were also convicted of aiding and abetting Haque. They will be sentenced at a later date.
dm/aw (AP, Reuters)