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POLICE said they had no prior knowledge of a gang’s plot to slash the face of an East End teacher because he was holding lessons in religion that Muslim girls attended.

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Gary Smith, head of religious education at Central Foundation Girls’ School in Bow, was pounced on by four thugs armed with a knife, an iron rod and a block of cement in Mile End on July 12 last year.

Detectives surveilling the men, Akmol Hussein, 26, Sheikh Rashid, 27, Azad Hussain, 25, and Simon Alam, 19, had gathered evidence that showed a religious motive for the attack.

But they have rebuffed newspaper reports which suggested they knew an attack on Mr Smith, who suffered a fractured skull, was imminent.

The four men pleaded guilty to the assault and are now facing jail.

Hussein of Turin Street, Bethnal Green, Rashid, of Deancross Street, Shadwell, Hussain, of Presom Street, Wapping and Alam, of Frostic Walk, Whitechapel, have been remanded in custody until sentencing.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse said during a hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday that there was a clear religious motive for the attack.

Mr Smith, 37, had three operations to repair the damage to his face after the assault on Burdett Road.

His mother, Heather Smith said she did not recognise him because his injuries were so severe.

Mr Smith told the Advertiser shortly after the attack: “I wouldn’t want anybody else to suffer what I went through. I survived but somebody else might not.”

A religious tolerance group has since spoken out on the attack.

Reverend Alan Green, chair of the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, said: “I condemn such misguided violence and reaffirm our common commitment to the values of peace, equality and mutual respect. The actions of these young men represent neither Muslims nor the vast majority of people of Tower Hamlets.”

The men were due to stand trial but all pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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