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As UP cops probe terror angle in Gorakhnath Math attack, family says suspect ‘suicidal IIT alum’

Gorakhpur resident Ahmed Murtaza walked to the southern gate of Gorakhnath temple Sunday, and allegedly attacked two security personnel. He also allegedly chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’.

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Lucknow: A suicidal youngster of “academic brilliance”, or a possible terrorist? Two days since a 29-year-old allegedly attacked security personnel at the famous Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, his exact motive remains under investigation. 

Two members of the UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were injured in the assault Sunday, as was the accused, Ahmed Murtaza, who is currently in hospital.

In interactions with the media at the hospital Sunday, Murtaza has claimed that he “wanted to go to Nepal”, because of summons served on him earlier. He said he wanted his phone to become untraceable, and to evade the “police who had reached his house”.

“Day before yesterday (Friday), my bade papa (uncle) said some police officers came to our house and were enquiring (about me). He said there was a summons in my name,” said Murtaza, described by his family as an IIT Bombay graduate.

He added: “My uncle said the summons seemed serious and I should consider whether to stay here or leave. I was very scared and left for Naugarh with that bag (the one that was  recovered from him Sunday).” 

Located in UP’s Siddharthnagar district is close to the Nepal border.

“I thought I would leave for Nepal from there… I was very scared,” he added. 

He, however, didn’t disclose the nature of the alleged summons against him.

While one report in Hindi media has suggested that the summons could be in relation to a case involving Rs 35 lakh, without providing further details, another quoted his father as saying that the summons were of a civil nature.

There have also been reports that Murtaza was already on the intelligence radar before Sunday’s temple attack. 

Police say they are still probing his claims. Uttar Pradesh Assistant Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar told ThePrint that everything claimed by the accused couldn’t be believed.

The investigation is still on, but police said the incident Sunday could possibly be a “terror attack”. The possibility of others being involved in the alleged attack is also being probed, they added.

The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Special Task Fore (STF) have also been involved in the investigation.

“Sensational documents have been recovered and more information can only be revealed after the probe, since it is in its initial stages. Two cases have been lodged at the local police station in Gorakhpur,” Kumar told reporters Monday.

An additional chief judicial magistrate’s court has sent Murtaza to 14 days’ judicial custody.

Also read: Rise of Gorakhpur, fall of Mathura – How UP’s temple towns contribute to economy

Video of attack goes viral

The Gorakhnath temple is among the most notable shrines in UP. 

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the head priest of the temple and also represents the Gorakhpur constituency in the assembly. He has previously represented the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat. 

Around 7 pm Sunday, Murtaza, a resident of Gorakhpur, walked up to the southern gate of the Gorakhnath temple, and tried to snatch a self-loading rifle (SLR) held by PAC constable Gopal Gaur, who was deployed there, ADG (Gorakhpur Zone) Akhil Kumar told the media Sunday.

Without giving Gaur any time to react, police said, the accused also allegedly attacked the constable with a sharp object.

Hearing Gaur’s cries, another PAC trooper deployed at the temple, identified as Anil Kumar Paswan, ran to his help, but was also allegedly attacked by Murtaza with the same sharp object.

As more security personnel were alerted and advanced towards him, Murtaza allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar”. The accused, however, was overpowered by PAC troopers, led by Anurag Rajput, and bystanders, and arrested.

Purported CCTV footage from the temple’s main gate, in which the accused appears to be flashing a blade and shouting at security personnel chasing him, has gone viral

Akhil Kumar said “both the injured jawans have been taken to the nearby hospital and have been given timely treatment”.

The CM has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the two PAC troopers injured in the attack.

‘Cleared IIT in first attempt, suicidal’

Murtaza’s father, Muneer Ahmed Abbasi, has been quoted as saying that his son is a chemical engineer from IIT Bombay. 

The family, including Murtaza, is believed to have stayed in Mumbai for some years before returning to Gorakhpur in 2020.

Abbasi has also claimed that his son was a former corporate employee  who had been suicidal since 2017.

“He has had a suicidal tendency for some years. When he left his job at Reliance, we encouraged him to start cycling, to keep him engaged. But even when he cycled, he would often ride at a speed of 80-90 kilometres per hour and would say that he wanted to crash his cycle somewhere,” Abbasi was quoted as saying by ABP News. “We would tell him that it was suicide and that was a serious crime that has no forgiveness.”

Abbasi referred to Murtaza’s “academic brilliance”, saying he “scored 92 per cent in intermediary”. 

“He cleared IIT entrance in his first attempt and his fees was waived,” he added. 

Murtaza, he said, had been married but was estranged from his wife because of “differences”.

ADG Kumar said all claims made by the accused and his family are being investigated.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Mahants and maths: Adityanath’s religious lineage that will shape 2022 UP election


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