A British jury on Friday found three men guilty of terrorism offenses in connection with a plot to train and radicalize dozens of children who would be used to carry out terror attacks across London.
Umar Haque, 25, Abuthaher Mamun, 29, and Muhammad Abid, 27, all of East London, were arrested in 2017 following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.
Police say Haque attempted to radicalize at least 55 children by showing them beheading videos and other violent Islamic militant propaganda, and made them role-play attacking police officers. Haque envisioned the children would then conduct multi-pronged attacks on businesses and communities in London, according to Dean Haydon, head of Met Police’s counter terror division.
“His plan was to create an army of children to assist with multiple terrorist attacks throughout London,” Haydon said in a statement. “He tried and he did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14.”
Haque first came to the attention of police in April 2016, when police officers stopped him at London’s Heathrow Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul. A subsequent search of Haque’s phone found detailed information on terrorist attacks and executions, and police eventually confirmed that he had begun planning an attack in the U.K.
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence detailing how Haque used his position as an administrator at a private Islamic school form a cadre of young militants. Even though he had no qualifications as an educator, Haque used the pretext of teaching Islamic Studies at an after-school madrassa in East London to recruit and brainwash children.
Of those children, 35 have been placed in long-term “safeguarding” care involving social services and other authorities, reports Reuters.
“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,” Haydon said. “They were too afraid to confide in anyone.”
Haque was found guilty in London’s Old Bailey court on two counts of preparation of terrorist acts and one count of collection of information useful to terrorism. He had previously pleaded guilty to four lesser terrorism-related charges.
Mamun, who police say was involved in fundraising and planning for the attack, was found guilty of one count of preparation of terrorist acts.
Abid was found guilty of one count of having information about acts of terrorism.
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