Updated: August 20, 2020 2:40:04 pm
The Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) claimed to have foiled a bid to assassinate senior BJP leader and former minister Gordhan Zadafia, with the arrest of an alleged sharphooter of the Chhota Shakeel gang in Ahmedabad early Wednesday morning.
They said Irfan alias Kalia Shaikh, 24, had arrived from Mumbai on Tuesday for carrying out the killing. The arrest was a joint operation by the ATS and Ahmedabad Crime Branch, which claimed they were looking for an “accomplice” of Shaikh’s who had come to the city with him.
The ATS said Shaikh had been arrested from Hotel Vinus in the Old City around 2:30 am on Wednesday, and was armed and had fired one round with his pistol in a bid to evade officers. He has been booked under the UAPA, among other charges.
Zadafia, a BJP state vice-president and Y-category protectee, is currently on a tour of Saurashtra with newly appointed state party president C R Paatil. He told The Indian Express over the phone that he had been told about the arrest and alleged plot by Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja. He said he hadn’t been alerted regarding any threat perceptions lately.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Deepan Bhadran said they had recovered photos of the BJP state headquarters from Shaikh’s phone. “Based on an input received, a team of police officials, including myself, had reached the hotel last night to apprehend the accused…
An FIR has been lodged at the ATS Police Station. We are currently interrogating Shaikh and a preliminary investigation of his mobile phone has shown he had pictures of BJP leaders and had also done a recce of the BJP office. It is believed that he was working for the Chhota Shakeel gang module and had been given the contract to assassinate BJP leader Gordhan Zadafia,” said Bhadran.
Officers close to the investigation claimed to have found that Shaikh was in touch with a handler of the Chhota Shakeel gang on WhatsApp. An ATS officer said Shaikh had shared videos showing the BJP office at Kamalam (Gandhinagar) on Tuesday 3 pm with the said handler. “We have also got hold of the WhatsApp chats where they specifically mentioned Zadafia as the target.”
Sources said they were also probing if an “ISI module in Pakistan” was behind the alleged assassination attempt.
Zadafia told The Indian Express that around 2012, he had informed the Home Department about three-four unidentified people following him when he was travelling in Navsari. “They had enquired about me at a place where I had just taken lunch. And then when I was at the Tithal beach with my wife and others, they followed me. Getting suspicious, I had asked my commandos to check them out, and they had run away. I had not complained in writing, but informed the Home Department. Since then, I have not experienced anything like that,” he said.
The minister of state for home under the Narendra Modi-led state government during the Gujarat riots, Zadafia had been a Z-category security holder till 2013, after which his security was scaled down. He had deposed in-camera before the G T Nanavati and A H Mehta Commissions that had probed the Godhra train burning and the riots. In 2007, he had left the BJP to float his own party, but returned before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Zadafia said he had full confidence in the Home Department to carry out a probe in Wednesday’s arrest.
Apart from the UAPA, the police have invoked attempt to murder and charges under the arms Act against Shaikh. Officers said that following his Covid results, he would be produced before a magistrate and his remand sought.
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