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LUCKNOW – Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh tightened security in all districts on Saturday following intelligence inputs that “anti-national elements” dressed like Hindu saints were planning to carry out “spectacular” attacks at prominent religious sites and public places in the state.

The inputs, provided by Madhya Pradesh police, said “the 17-18 men had been trained by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence in Hindu religious practices and shlokas, and might try to blend into the local populace before carrying out strikes”.

“A group of 17-18 anti-national elements, trained in Hindu rituals, is planning a spectacular incident at prominent religious sites and other sensitive spots in the guise of sadhus,” the letter issued by additional director general of MP police read.

The alert comes roughly a month after Hindu hardline leader Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister of the state and shunted out UP Police chief Javeed Ahmed and replaced him by 1980-batch IPS officer Sulkhan Singh.

The security of CM Yogi Adityanath has also been heightened, reports in Indian media said.

Twenty-five terrorists, all aged around 18 years, could be infiltrated into India via Nepal, added the reports. Security has been beefed up on the Indo-Nepal border.

Meanwhile, Sulkhan Singh said that the UP police was on alert in the wake of the report.

Security was heightened in crowded places as well as important pilgrimages such as Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi.

Additional security personnel were deployed at Taj Mahal in Agra, the high court in Allahabad and its Lucknow bench, the assembly and secretariat buildings and other important government offices in Lucknow.

The MP police letter referred to a 2016 incident in which eight suspected members of the banned Students Islamic Movement if India (Simi) had also assumed the guise of Hindus to escape attention. The men were killed after escaping from a jail in Madhya Pradesh last year.

The document also cited the example of Gaus Mohammad, a suspected terrorist who was found living under a Hindu name, Karan Khatri, in Lucknow in March. “In February, intelligence agencies in the state were tipped off about four dozen terrorists sneaking into UP through the porous border with Nepal,” read the letter.

Some of these people, intelligence agencies believe, were specially trained by the ISI to fox security forces’ attention by their saffron clothes and knowledge of Hindu scriptures and practices.

“In the past as well, we have information about ISI’s “Operation Krishna India” in which the agency would send its agents in the guise of Hindus saints,” the letter added.

On March 08, an alleged terrorist, suspected to have been influenced by the Islamic State (ISIS), was killed in Lucknow after a 12-hour police operation in the wake of the Ujjain-Bhopal train blast in which 10 persons were injured.