Lucknow: The president of a little-known Hindu Samaj Party was murdered at his home in Khurshed Bagh under the Naka Hindola police station area here, police said on Friday.
Police have registered an FIR against three persons in connection with the killing of Kamlesh Tiwari (45), who was earlier associated with a faction of the Hindu Mahasabha.
A lesser-known outfit called the Al-Hind Brigade claimed responsibility late on Friday night for the murder of the Hindu Samaj Party president, though the authenticity of the claim could not immediately be verified.
Late on Friday night, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said a special investigation team (SIT) had been constituted to probe the incident.
Awasthi said the team consisted of Inspector General (Lucknow) S K Bhagat, Lucknow Superintendent of Police (Crime) Dinesh Puri and STF deputy SP P K Mishra.
In a statement issued by the Uttar Pradesh government, Director General of Police (DGP) O P Singh said: "Tiwari was provided security for the past some months, under which apart from a gunner, the security personnel was provided from the local police station."
"At the time of the incident, the security personnel who was deployed at the residence of the deceased had stopped the killers and allowed them to enter the house only after asking Tripathi. Possibly the killers might have used other names," the state police chief said.
In a statement, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha condemned the incident.
Police said brief protests were held in the area by local residents after the murder.
"Kamlesh Tiwari was found murdered inside his house. Two persons had come to meet him. Both were speaking to Tiwari when the latter sent one of his aides to get 'paan' for them," Vikas Tripathi, ASP (Lucknow West) said.
"When his aide returned from the market, he found Tiwari in a pool of blood," Tripathi added.
The Al-Hind Brigade, in its message that also carried a photograph Tiwari, said, "Kamlesh Tiwari was a nuisance and whosoever points fingers towards Islam and Muslims, will meet the same end. Al-Hind Brigade takes responsibility. Get ready to see more. The war has begun."
"We at Al-Hind Brigade claim the responsibility for killing Kamlesh Tiwari, who tried to defame Islam and Muslims. More to come," the outfit said in a WhatsApp message that was widely circulated.
Whether the outfit had links with any global terror organisation was not immediately known.
Police, meanwhile, said they were looking at all angles.
Elaborating on the registration of the FIR, ASP Tripathi said, "On the basis of the complaint lodged by the wife of the deceased, police have registered an FIR against three people, including an unknown person."
Two of the accused have been identified as Mohammed Mufti Naeem Kazmi and Imam Maulana Anuwarul Haq, both residents of Bijnor district.
They have been booked under Sections 302 (murder) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Police said though the killers were yet to be identified, the Bijnor residents were booked after the victim's wife named them in her complaint.
A senior UP government official said the persons who had come to meet Tiwari shot him dead after talking to him for little over half an hour.
Police reached the spot and gathered the CCTV footage.
UP DGP OP Singh told reporters, "Those who have murdered Tiwari are said to be his acquaintances. They spent over half an hour with him and even gave Tiwari a box of sweets and after it the murder took place. We have got some vital clues and based on CCTV footage and other evidence, we are working on the case."
He said teams had been formed to crack the case.
"We have also got some call details. The special task force has been engaged in the case," he said, adding that it was "purely a criminal activity" done by two people.
The UP DGP said there were "some minor law and order problem" in the area after the murder took place with local people saying that such incidents should not take place.
"But, the situation now is under control. Police officers are patrolling the area. In the next 48 hours, we will catch the culprits," he said.
When asked whether there was any possible terror angle in the incident, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) PV Ramasastry told PTI, "All the angles are being looked into. And, it would be improper to jump to any conclusion."
Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani said prima facie it seemed to be a case of personal enmity.
An eyewitness, Saurashtra Singh, told reporters shortly after the incident that the police constable deployed at the house of Tiwari was sleeping while the gunner attached to him was not coming for the past a couple of days.
Earlier in the day, Tiwari's wife Kiran in a complaint to police said, "Around 12.30 pm, my husband was sitting in his office located on the first floor of the house and speaking to some unknown persons. I was in another room. Suddenly, for nearly 4-5 minutes, there was no conversation. I came out to enquire and saw my husband lying in a pool of blood. The two persons, who had come to meet him, were running out of the office."
She further alleged, "In 2016, Mohammed Mufti Naeem Kazmi and Imam Maulana Anuwarul Haq had announced a cash reward of Rs 1.5 crore on my husband's head. They have killed my husband by hatching a conspiracy."