SAMBHAL (UP): Anger is palpable in Mohalla Deepa Sarai of Sambhal in UP, which is back in the news after four years.

The residents of the locality have been in the public glare ever since former resident Sanaul Haque was unmasked as Maulana Asim Umar, the head of al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and one of the most wanted men on the security forces' list, in 2015.

According to local residents, Sanaul's family was once a prominent one in the area as his grandfather was a village head, another ancestor was a freedom fighter and his great grandfather was a district magistrate under the British rule. TOI spoke with Haque's brother, Rizwan, a teacher.

"We were told about his death by intelligence sleuths on Tuesday. It didn't come as a shock for us since he left us in 1998 when he was just 18 and we never heard from him since," Rizwan said. Son of Irfan-ul-Haq and Ruqaiya, who used to live in the locality until a few years ago, Haque was promoted to the top job by al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2010. "For us, he died in 2009 when local intelligence sleuths told us he had joined a terrorist organisation," his mother Ruqaiya, who was then 70, had told TOI in 2015.

In 2009, intelligence agents had landed at their house in Sambhal to inform the family that their son, missing for 11 years at the time and presumed dead, was actually working for terrorist organisations Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaida.

Haq's father, Irfan-ul-Haq, who was then 75, had immediately given advertisements in local newspaper disowning his son.

The old man died in 2017 and after their other two sons were picked up by intelligence sleuths for questioning, Ruqaiya left Mohalla Deepa Sarai forever. According to neighbours, she told us that she would be living with his other son, who is an engineer in Delhi.

Sanaul Haque, who, according to his family, studied till Class VIII, is said to have graduated from Darul Uloom Deoband. However, the renowned Islamic seminary has categorically denied any alumnus of that name.

"We have thoroughly checked our records and did not find any alumnus by the name of Sanaul Haque," Darul Uloom spokesperson Ashraf Usmani told TOI. After completing his studies, he wanted to go to West Asia for further studies and sought Rs 1 lakh from his father, which he refused.

After a quarrel with them, he left his house in 1998 and never returned. The AQIS's newly appointed head in 2010 was finally linked to Sanaul Haque through two of his relatives who were arrested in 2015.

Mohammad Asif, training and recruitment chief of AQIS, was arrested by Delhi police from Seelampur and Zafar Masood was picked up by a team from Sambhal-Moradabad road in December 2015. They were both originally residents of Mohall Deepa Sarai.

According to intelligence agencies, the three had travelled to Pakistan through Iran in 2012 and had been trained at a jihadist camp in Miranshah. Back home in Sambhal’s Deepa Sarai, the residents resent Haque’s association with the area.