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Man jailed trying to create 'child army' for Islamic State in London

Umar Haque showed children as young as 11 footage of beheadings and conducted terrorism role-play exercises
Haque was jailed for life after being convicted for a wide range of terrorism charges (Metropolitan Police handout)

A British man who had attempted to build an army of child soldiers for the Islamic State (IS) group in London has been sentenced to life in prison.

Umar Haque, 25, attempted to brainwash children as young as 11 at a mosque in East London by showing them footage of beheadings and conducting terrorism role-play exercises.

The court was told that Haque played IS propaganda to students at the Lantern of Knowledge Islamic School in East London, where he taught an Islamic Studies class, despite having no teaching qualifications.

Haque, who confessed to supporting the Islamic State (IS) group, was also convicted of planning to blow up a car packed with explosives at 30 high-profile targets, including Big Ben, and the Westfield Shopping centre in East London.

Police believed Haque tried to radicalise at least 110 children who attended an after-school madrasah at the mosque and school, with 35 now receiving long-term support.

During his sentencing, Justice Charles Haddon-Cave described Haque's actions as "extreme and alarming".

"You have violated the Qur'an and Islam by your actions, as well as the law of all civilised people," Haddon-Cave told Haque.

The court heard that Haque had told the young boys, aged 11 to 14, that he had established contact with IS and showed them videos from the group.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the counter-terrorism unit at Scotland Yard, said that Haque had "tried to prepare the children for martyrdom by making them play role-play terrorist attacks in London".

Since Haque's arrest, the UK Charity Commission opened up an investigation into the Lantern of Knowledge school.

In April 2016, Haque was stopped at Heathrow airport as he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul. Following the arrest, his passport was confiscated and police began investigating him. 

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