An Islamic State-obsessed teacher has dismissed bugged conversations of himself planning potential terror attacks as “overzealous rhetoric”, a court has heard.

Umar Haque, 25, is accused of plotting attacks on London landmarks including Big Ben, the Queen's Guards and Westfield shopping centre in 2016 and early 2017.

The Old Bailey has also been told how he attempted to recruit youngsters to his extremist cause while teaching at the Lantern of Knowledge School in Leyton and Ripple Road mosque in Barking.

Haque is on trial alongside Abuthaher Mamun, 19, Muhammad Abid, 27, and Nadeem Patel, 26, who he allegedly recruited to help via the mosque.

His support for IS-inspired attacks was revealed in secretly recorded conversations with Abid and Mamun, it is alleged.

After the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017, which left six people dead and 49 more injured, Haque allegedly talked to Abid about launching a series of strikes across the capital.

He said: "We're here to cause terror, my brother. We are a death squad sent by Allah and his messengers to avenge my Arab brothers' blood."

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said the defendant had refused to comment about the conversations in police interviews following his arrest.

Haque replied: "Yes. I also did say some of them were overzealous. Some of them were rhetoric.

"I even said I cannot believe that's me. I cannot believe I'm speaking in such a violent manner. It's just sad my rhetoric is to do with terrorism."

In his interviews, he described Patel as a "neighbour" to whom he would chat in the street.

Mr Heywood asserted: "You had lied about yourself, lied about Mr Abid, lied about Mr Mamun and not told the truth about Mr Patel. You set out to mislead the investigators."

Haque conceded: "My intention was to wave away any suspicion."

The lawyer went on: "You set out to mislead from the very beginning."

The defendant replied: "Yes, you could say that."

He maintained that despite "circumstantial evidence", he was not going to launch an attack in the UK, he was only "contemplating, pondering over it".

Haque said he had not been truthful when he told police he was involved with the administration of the Ripple Road mosque when in fact he had been teaching there too.

He also allegedly declined to explain to police the allegation that he made children at the mosque enact terrorism scenarios.

Haque has already admitted having records likely to be useful to a terrorist and a further charge of dissemination of a terrorist publication while teaching at Lantern of Knowledge.

He and Mamun are jointly charged with preparing acts of terrorism between March 25 and May 18, 2017.

Abid is accused of having information about Haque's plans and Patel is charged with plotting with Haque to possess a firearm or imitation firearm. The defendants have denied the charges.

The trial continues.