Prayagraj : Gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad (60) and his brother Ashraf were shot dead at point-blank range by three men posing as journalists in the middle of a media interaction on Saturday night while police personnel were escorting them to a medical college here for a checkup.

The brothers, both jailed in Prayagraj, were in handcuffs when they were killed in full view of camera crews around 10 pm. The horrifying visuals were circulated widely on social media platforms and television channels. The last rites of Ahmad’s son Asad, who was gunned down in a police encounter in Jhansi on April 13, were performed here just hours before the shooting.

Briefing reporters about the incident, Commissioner of Police, Prayagraj, Ramit Sharma said the three assailants, who were arrested immediately after the incident, had joined the group of mediapersons who were trying to get sound bites from Ahmad and Ashraf.

“In accordance with a mandatory legal requirement, Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf were brought to the hospital for a medical examination. According to preliminary information, three men posing as journalists approached them and opened fire. Ahmad and Ashraf were killed in the attack. The attackers have been held and are being questioned,” Sharma said.

Police constable Man Singh was injured in the incident as a bullet hit his arm, the officer said, adding that a journalist was also hurt after he fell during the commotion that followed the shooting.

Video footage showed a man thrusting a gun at Ahmad’s head as he talks to reporters and the former Samajwadi Party (SP) MP collapsing. The footage also showed the three assailants firing at the brothers even after they had fallen.

The bullet-riddled bodies of Ahmad and Ashraf were taken away from the spot as tension gripped the area after the sensational killings.

Officials said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has formed a three-member judicial commission to probe the killing of Ahmad and his brother. They added that prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) have been issued in all districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Reacting to the incident, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi: “Crime has reached its peak in Uttar Pradesh and the criminals are unfazed. When someone can be shot dead amidst a police cordon, then what about the safety of the general public? An atmosphere of fear is being created among the public due to this and it seems that some people are deliberately creating such an atmosphere.” Ahmad, a former SP MP, and his brother were brought here for a court hearing in connection with the Umesh Pal murder case and were remanded in police custody.

Ahmad’s son Asad and one of his accomplices were killed in a police encounter in Jhansi on April 13.

The last rites of Asad were performed at the Kasari Masari graveyard here on Saturday amid heavy police security, with only a few distant relatives and locals present inside the burial ground.

Incidentally, Ahmad and Ashraf were being questioned by the Uttar Pradesh Police at the Dhoomanganj police station, around 3 km from the burial venue.

Asked by reporters to comment on Asad’s death, his uncle Ashraf said, “Allah has taken back what belonged to him.” Umesh Pal, a key witness in the murder case of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Raju Pal, and his two police security guards were shot dead outside his Dhoomanganj residence here on February 24.

Based on a complaint lodged by Umesh Pal’s wife Jaya Pal, a case was registered on February 25 against Ahmad, Ashraf, Ahmad’s wife Shaista Parveen, two sons, aides Guddu Muslim and Ghulam, and nine others.

A police team from Uttar Pradesh brought Ahmad, who was lodged in the high-security Sabarmati Central Jail in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, to Prayagraj on March 26 to produce him in a court in the 2006 Umesh Pal kidnapping case.

On March 28, the court sentenced Ahmad and two others to life imprisonment in the kidnapping case.

In 2006, Ahmad and his aides abducted Umesh Pal and forced him to give a statement in court in their favour. Umesh Pal had got a complaint registered in this regard.

The Supreme Court had in April 2019 directed that Ahmad be shifted to a high-security jail in Gujarat after he was accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and assault of Lucknow-based real-estate businessman Mohit Jaiswal while in jail.

Ahmad was named in more than 100 criminal cases, including the Umesh Pal murder case, police said.

Among the most sensational murders in which Ahmad was allegedly involved was that of Raju Pal, the then BSP MLA who was shot dead in 2005.