Was the lone wolf attack on Gorakhnath temple by Ahmad Murtaza Abbasi on Sunday, carried out in haste? Had the sickle-wielding Abbasi, who was easily overpowered by the PAC personnel, preponed the attack apprehending that he might be netted by sleuths of the Anti-Terrorists Squad (ATS), as they had been tailing him?
If well-placed police sources are to be believed, the answer is 'Yes'.
A top UP Police official said that the ATS, which had Murtaza on its radar, paid a visit to his home at Civil Lines in Gorakhpur on Saturday but found him missing. The ATS raid was confirmed by Abbasi's father too.
Upon learning of the ATS visit, Abbasi went to Nepal and sensing that he was in trouble, he planned a 'hasty' attack. While returning to Gorakhpur, he purchased a sharp-edged sickle from Maharajganj and tried to storm the Gorakhnath temple premises and in the process injured two PAC jawans before being overpowered and arrested.
Meanwhile, the ATS officials confirmed that Central intelligence agencies had shared Murtaza’s details, apprehending his involvement in some subversive activity involving Gorakhnath temple.
"On March 31, the Central intelligence agencies shared profiles of 16 people plotting an attack on Gorakhnath temple," disclosed an ATS source, claiming that Murtaza’s profile was in that list.
Subsequently, a two-member ATS team went to Murtaza's house but failed to locate him on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Ahmad Murtaja Abbasi was brought to the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) headquarters in Lucknow for further quizzing.
Before leaving Gorakhpur, Abbasi was subjected to a medical test on Wednesday morning. His laptop and mobile phone were also sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for investigation.
After his arrest, several ATS teams carried out a series of raids in at least six districts, including Saharanpur, and picked up over a dozen suspects, who were in touch with Abbasi.
Sources confirmed that after finding that he was in touch with Abbasi, an ATS unit picked up a suspicious youth from Chhutmalpur area of Saharanpur on Tuesday night. The detained suspect, Abdul Rehman, runs a grocery shop 'Kashifi General Store' in Muslim Colony of Chhutmalpur and hails from Badkala hamlet of the district.
It surfaced that Rehman and Abbasi went to Nepal and were in touch with Syria-based terror groups. The ATS sleuths were quizzing Rehman but refused to make any comment.
Besides, the ATS has also detained two people from Deoband, who met Abbasi during his Deoband visit a few months back. Also, some people from Kanpur, Lucknow, Noida, Shamli, Sambhal and other cities have also been detained for quizzing.
While two persons were picked up from Sambhal, eight others were nabbed from Shamli, Noida and Delhi. The ATS is on the lookout for 40 suspects who met Abbasi and contacted him over the phone.
The top official said that the ATS probe till date pointed that Abbasi had sent lakhs of rupees to the bank account of banned terror outfit ISIS. The bank details of Abbasi were being scanned by the investigating agencies.
Besides an account of ICICI Bank, Platinum Federal Bank, IDFC First Bank, some other accounts were also being screened. It is suspected that money was transferred from these
ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said that Abbasi was brought to the ATS headquarters on remand and whatever was confiscated from him was being scrutinised.
ATS sources maintained that Abbasi was being treated as part of a sleeper cell. Abbasi was frequently seen on social media with radical views, as per data recovered from his laptop and cell phone. He used to watch videos of beheadings in Syria, 9/11 twin tower attacks in America and lone wolf attacks by terrorists in western countries.
Investigators believe that Abbasi was brainwashed by these videos and inflammatory speeches and he was ready to carry out a major incident.
During his overnight quizzing, the probe team also learnt about Abbasi's mentor, an American Imam Anwar al-Halaki from Yemen.
Sources also said that the parents of Abbasi’s estranged wife stay in Jaunpur where the ATS team reached to quiz his wife. Abbasi married in 2019 but his wife left his place a couple of months later.
Sources also confirmed that Gujarat ATS team was also reaching Lucknow to interrogate Abbasi as some documents recovered from him pointed to his link with Jamnagar.