LONDON (Reuters) - A British supporter of Islamic State who tried to recruit over 100 children into an “army” of jihadists to carry out a wave of attacks across London was jailed for a minimum of 25 years on Tuesday.
Umar Haque, 25, showed the children beheading videos and other violent militant propaganda, forced them to re-enact deadly attacks on the British capital and made them role-play attacking police officers.
“The children were paralyzed 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,” said Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.
“We recovered a number of exercise books from his home and it was evident from his notes that his plan was a long-term one,” he added in a statement. “He intended to execute his plan years later, by which time he anticipated he would have trained and acquired an army of soldiers, including children.”
Despite having no qualifications and being employed as an administrator, Haque used the guise of teaching Islamic studies to groom 110 children into becoming militants at the Lantern of Knowledge, a small private Islamic school, and at a madrassa connected to the Ripple Road Mosque in east London.
His intention was to use them to attack London targets such as Big Ben, soldiers from the Queen’s Guards, a large shopping center, banks, and media stations, prosecutors said at his trial.
Believed to have been self-radicalized online, Haque was inspired by an attack in March last year when Khalid Masood plowed a rented car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four, before stabbing to death a police officer in the grounds of parliament.
Haque was found guilty at London’s Old Bailey Court earlier this month of several offences including preparing terrorist acts, having previously pleaded guilty to four charges.
Reporting by Stephen Addison, editing by Estelle Shirbon