A National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer, who had handled several cases related to the Indian Mujahideen (IM) including the arrest and probe against its India chief Yasin Bhatkal, was shot dead past midnight Saturday by unidentified men at Sahaspur in Bijnor district of western UP. Police said his body bore 22 bullet injuries.
The officer, Mohammad Tanzeel Ahmed (49), was returning from a family wedding along with his wife and two children when the attack took place.
An Assistant Commandant with the BSF on deputation to the NIA, Ahmed had proceeded on leave on April 1 after completing his job as the liaison officer for the five-member Pakistan Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that was in Delhi to probe the Pathankot attack, NIA sources said.
Shortly before 1 am, two men on a motorcycle stopped Ahmed’s Wagon R car near the Sahaspur police post and opened fire. His wife too sustained serious injuries. She was shot four times. His teenaged son and daughter were on the rear seats.
NIA and UP police sources said a terror angle to the killing could not be ruled out.
Calling the incident a “planned attack”, NIA IG Sanjeev Singh said, “Mohammad Tanzil Ahmad had gone home to attend a function. While he was returning, a planned attack took place on him and he was fired upon. He was killed in the firing while his wife was injured. She has been admitted to Fortis Hospital, Noida.”
NIA suspects that Ahmed’s movements were being tracked by his assailants.
Inspector General (Bareilly Zone) Vijay Singh Meena told The Indian Express: “Nothing can be ruled out. We are probing all angles, including professional rivalry.” He said the UP police, ATS and STF were working with the NIA.
“Borders of the state have been sealed and checking is on in nearby villages,” he said.
Ahmed’s brother Ragib Masood, in a complaint to police, said: “We were returning from the wedding of my niece and had dropped our relatives home. My wife and I were a Wagon R, while my brother and his family were in another Wagon R. Suddenly, two men on a motorcycle intercepted my brother’s car which was behind us. One of the men started firing.”
Ahmed was taken to Cosmos Hospital in Bijnor where he was declared dead while his wife was shifted to Fortis Hospital in Noida. In a statement on her condition, the hospital said: “The patient has been brought in a critical condition. Our doctors are providing the best medical treatment. As a matter of patient confidentiality, we cannot comment any further.”
According to NIA sources, Ahmed had been with NIA since its inception in 2009. “Over the past six years, he was involved in every big case with the agency,” an NIA officer said.
An “excellent intelligence hand”, Ahmed first joined NIA’s intelligence and operations and later shifted to its investigations. He was working in the Terror Funding and Fake Currency Cell.
“He had joined the cell a year ago and was very meticulous in his work. He never shied away from operations. He was working on cases related to FICN smuggling in Malda, West Bengal,” an officer from the cell said.
According to sources, Ahmed had good command over Urdu and Persian. “He often generated credible human intelligence that led to successful operations,” said an NIA officer who worked with him in cases related to the Indian Mujahideen. The officer said Ahmed was instrumental in the arrest of alleged IM operative Danish Riyaz.
“It was Ahmed who traced the mobile phone through which Yasin Bhatkal, then hiding in Nepal, spoke to his wife Zahida. The phone was bought by Yasin’s then deputy, Tehsin Akhtar, from Rajasthan and given to Zahida. It was this phone that was tapped by intelligence agencies, revealing his location in Nepal,” an NIA officer said.
Sources said Ahmed also played a role in busting an alleged ISIS module which led to the arrest of several suspects, including one from Welcome area in North East Delhi.
He was instrumental in arrests made in the Burdwan blast case of October 2014. “He engineered many surrenders in the case by motivating the accused through his contacts to cooperate with the agency,” an officer said.
There is speculation within the agency about Ahmed being on the radar of IM. “About a year and half ago, I heard him talk of a threat he received, purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen. But I do not remember the details. It is common for NIA officers to receive threat letters,” another NIA officer said.