A former Indian member of parliament and his brother were shot dead on live TV late Saturday while police brought them to a medical examination, authorities said.
Atiq Ahmed, 61, who had been jailed since 2019 and was convicted of kidnapping, was being taken to hospital by police when gunmen posing as journalists opened fire at close range.
"According to preliminary information, three persons posing as journalists approached them and opened fire...The attackers have been held and are being questioned," police official Prashant Kumar said.
In anticipation of potential violent unrest following the murders, the Uttar Pradesh government prohibited gatherings of more than four people throughout the state.
Killers shout slogans
The attack took place in the northern city of Prayagraj. TV footage of the shooting showed the assailants chanting Hindu slogans after the attack. The slogan has become a rallying call for Hindu nationalists in their campaign against Muslims.
Although both victims were from India's Muslim minority, authorities have not confirmed whether the attack was motivated by sectarianism.
Ahmed and his brother had extensive involvement in India's criminal underworld, with Ahmed facing over 100 different cases.
The gunmen were believed to be small-time criminals.
The incident comes just days after police in the same state of Uttar Pradesh shot dead Ahmed's 19-year-old son and another person in a shootout. Both were wanted in a case of murder.
Scores of people facing charges have been killed in the state in recent years in similar so-called "police encounters", which rights groups say are often extra-judicial executions.
Ahmed, who was facing charges of murder and assault, had claimed in a petition to India's top court that his life was under threat.
Politicians face criminal charges
The shooting prompted a ban on gatherings of more than four people in the northern state of 200 million people ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
It was also condemned by opposition parties who accused the BJP of ruling by fear.
Numerous politicians from all political parties throughout India are facing criminal charges, with Uttar Pradesh being a particular hub for such cases.
According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, nearly half of the state's government ministers — including the state premier — face criminal charges.
ss/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)