A 25-year-old British teacher has been found guilty of attempting to recruit children into performing terrorist attacks on London landmarks.
Umar Haque, taught an Islamic studies class despite the fact that he had no teaching qualifications, was found to be showing his class Isis videos to give a "more holistic idea" of who they were. He would show the videos in class "at the end of term as a reward" for well-behaved students. Haque worked at the Lantern of Knowledge School in Leyton, east London between April 2015 and January 2016.
Haque attempted to radicalise at least 110 children at the school, which had been hailed as "outstanding" by Ofsted school inspectors, and a local mosque.
On Friday (2 March), Haque was found guilty at Old Bailey of trying to recruit children for a series of terrorist attacks on London landmarks. Following his arrest, Haque's apartment was found to have notebooks containing "attack plans".
The jury spent five days deliberating the case. According to The Guardian, he was trying to recruit kids as young as 11 from the school and the Ripple Road Mosque in Barking. He shouted "I want to say something" just after the verdict was ruled, but he was dragged out of court before he could speak further.
In April 2016, Haque was stopped at Heathrow airport as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul - a well-trodden route to Syria for aspiring Isis recruits.
He will be sentenced at a later date.
Earlier this month, Haque admitted to the court that he showed the students Isis videos but said it was only after they had asked. "During my Islamic studies lessons I would always play videos relevant to the topic," Haque said, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
"It was the end of term. The most well behaved of the class, I told them you can pick a video. I was shocked that he says 'Sir, I want to see an Isis video'. I said all right then. It was obviously not a good idea."
Haque also said he would often discuss the Isis terror attacks which occurred across Europe as they "sparked curiosity" among his students.
He said: "Whenever these events happened I would say to them, because we are not exactly sure what happened, maybe they are good, their intentions are good but the media is twisting things telling only one side."
The court also heard how Haque considered the terror attacks in Europe justified but the belief "felt heavy on his chest".
He told the jury: "I'm not happy to see bloodshed. I'm not a blood-thirsty person. The only reason why we agree with such attacks in the West is the fact the British government and the American government have killed thousands.
"That's what bombs do to things – burn bodies. I'm empathising with them. I see why it is justified for attacks in the West."
"He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight"
"His plan was to build an army of children," said Commander Dean Haydon, the head of counter-terrorism command 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."
The Guardian reported that six children gave evidence to the court. The trial was shown video of a police interview with a child, who said: "He is teaching us terrorism, like how to fight."
The boy said: "He has been training us, kind of. Apparently fighting is good. If you fight for the sake of Allah, on Judgment Day when you get judged for your good deeds and bad deeds, fighting is good."