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Teacher guilty of grooming terror teens

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Teacher guilty of grooming terror teens

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REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
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Umar Haque, a part-time teacher who tried to build an army of child jihadists by radicalising students has been convicted of a range of terrorism offences.

The 25 year-old from Whitechapel in London taught an Islamic studies class despite having no qualifications and being employed as an administrator.

Haque was allowed to teach around 250 11-14 year olds on his own, showing them ISIS beheading videos and getting them to re-enact terror attacks.

The Met Police believe Haque attempted to radicalise at least 110 children at the Ripple Road mosque in Barking, the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school and Hafs Academy over the course of five years.

Of those 35 are now receiving long-term support from social services and the Home Office who have allocated specific funds for their de-radicalisation.

Haque was stopped at Heathrow Airport in April 2016 as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul. Police suspected he may have been attempting to travel to ISIS-controlled Syria. They seized his passport and put him under surveillance before arresting him in May 2017, two weeks before the London Bridge and Borough Market attack.

Following further investigations at the schools Haque was found guilty of planning terror attacks, with help from two conspirators.

In Haque's notebooks he drafted plans for radicalising students and wrote a justification for his plans. Police also found a memeory stick with ISIS publications and guidance on knife and vehicle attacks.

He also listed targets including Big Ben, Parliament, Heathrow Airport, Freemason's lodge, MI5, the Queen's Guard, Tower Bridge, banks and the embassies of Iran, China and Russia.

“His plan was to build an army of children,” said Commander Dean Haydon, the head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard. “He had shown them graphic terrorist videos of barbarity, beheading videos and serious injuries mostly in terrorist attacks overseas.

“He had instructed children not to say anything in relation to not telling their teachers or their parents. We had a wall of silence.

“He tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them role-play terrorist attacks in London. Part of that re-enactment including attacking police officers.”

There are now serious questions for schools watchdog Ofsted who inspected the £3,000-a-year Lantern of Knowledge Islamic school whilst Haque was being allowed to preach hate. They awarded the school "Outstanding", their highest rating in November 2015.

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

“He 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."

A fellow teacher at the mosque, Abutaher Mamun, 19, was also found guilty of preparation of terrorist acts after agreeing to join him on the central London attack. The court heard he was helping to raise money by gambling on the stock exchange and buying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

A third teacher, Muhammad Abid, 27, was Haque's confidante, agreeing to help him write a document to justify his actions. He now faces jail for failing to inform police.

After the Jury delivered their verdicts Haque leapt to his feet and yelled: "If I may just say that America and Europe, there will be a drought and you will see the Islamic State establish itself in the Arabian Peninsula." He was dragged out of the dock at the Old Bailey. The judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said they will be sentenced at a later date.