The UK Metropolitan Police announced today that three men have been convicted on terrorism-related charges after it was learned they planned to use up to 55 children in attacks throughout London.
The thwarted plot was conceived by Umar Ahmed Haque, a 25-year-old from east London who worked as an administrator at “an after-school madrasa at Ripple Road Mosque in Barking.” Two other men were also convicted of playing supporting roles in Haque’s scheme, which targeted “up to 30 groups, businesses and establishments in London.”
UK counterterrorism officials first became suspicious of Haque in Apr. 2016, when “police officers stopped him at Heathrow Airport as he attempted to fly to Istanbul, Turkey.” Istanbul has been a common transit point for jihadists seeking to join the Islamic State or other groups in Syria. The officers discovered that Haque’s phone has been used to perform “detailed searches for terrorist attacks and executions.” Although he couldn’t be charged at the time under existing laws, Haque’s “passport was revoked by the Home Office under Royal Prerogative.
Back in the UK, Haque began working on a twisted idea to indoctrinate and then deploy children in terrorist attacks.
During “a five-hour phone conversation” in Mar. 2017, Haque told another convicted participant in his plot, Muhammad Abid (a 27-year-old from east London), that “he had radicalized 16 children.”
The police apparently didn’t have corroborating intelligence at first, but they continued their investigation after arresting Haque, Abid and a third man, Abuthaher Mamun (29).
“When specially trained officers interviewed the children, they described being shown by Haque horrific videos of extreme terrorist violence including executions,” Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, explained. “They told police how Haque made them roleplay terrorists and police officers, with the children acting as terrorists being made to stab the ‘police officers’ to death.”
The roleplaying described by Haydon is similar to the horrific scenes included in numerous Islamic State videos. The so-called caliphate has repeatedly used children to execute captives, often having them shoot, stab or behead their victims. The jihadists have also used children in suicide bombings.
The group developed a program named “Cubs of the Caliphate,” which is responsible for raising a generation of young jihadists. The program has been implemented everywhere from Afghanistan to Syria. Some of the Islamic State leaders killed in the US-led coalition’s targeted air campaign have played leading roles in the “Cubs of the Caliphate” initiative. In addition, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization launched a social media application for children that was intended to provide basic instruction.
Although the UK Metropolitan Police doesn’t mention the Islamic State’s prolific use of boys in its operations, it is certainly possible this is what inspired Haque.
“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,” Commander Haydon said. “They were too afraid to confide in anyone.”
Haque is “a dangerous man who was inspired by attacks in Europe and Westminster,” according to Haydon. “He wanted to orchestrate numerous attacks at once, using guns, knives, bombs and large cars to kill innocent people.”
The Westminster attack, which influenced Haque, took place in Mar. 2017, when Khalid Masood (52) drove his car into a crowd of people and then jumped out of the vehicle to assault others with a blade. The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency quickly claimed that Masood was its “soldier.
Haque discussed his plan with Abid during the aforementioned phone call the same month (Mar. 2017) as Masood’s vehicular assault. Haque was then arrested in May 2017.
Haydon provided more details concerning Haque’s patient plotting, saying that Haque’s “plan was a long-term one,” which “he intended to execute…years later.” By that time, Haque “anticipated he would have trained and acquired an army of soldiers, including children.”
During “conversations with Mamun,” the Met Police say, Haque “discussed various aspects of his plot, from how to increase the strength of a bomb and what type of vehicle to use, to where to carry out an attack and what the police response would be.”
Mamun “helped Haque strategize, and was planning to take driving lessons so that he could teach others in Haque’s aspirational ‘army’ to drive.” Mamun “also made unsuccessful attempts to invest money online in order to raise money to fund Haque’s plans.”
Haque’s ambitions went even further, as he told Abid that he wanted “another 30 or 40 men on standby” in case he was arrested. Haque also confided in Abid that he wanted the British public to be “annihilated.”
Haque, Maun and Abid were all found guilty today on charges related to the plot involving children. A fourth man, who was arrested during the investigation into Haque’s activities, “previously pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon.”