Mumbai, Feb 17: In a significant breakthrough in the killing of 26/11 lawyer Shahid Azmi, three men have been arrested in Mumbai, officials said on Tuesday, Feb 16.
The three attackers arrested by the crime branch of the Mumbai Police have been identified as Devendra Baburao Jagtap (28), Pintu Deendra Dhagle (25) and Vinod Yeshwant Vidhate (32), Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Rakesh Maria said.
Maria said that attackers were contract killers hired to eliminate Azmi, who was defending Faheem Ansari, one of the accused in the Mumbai terror attacks trial.
He said that they had taken a contract of Rs.100,000 to kill Azmi, adding that Jagtap was the main executor of the plan.
"The contract (supari) to eliminate Azmi was given by Bharat Nepali and Vijay Shetty alias Bala. Nepali, wanted in nearly 17 serious offences, is a former associate of the absconding mafia don Chhota Rajan's gang," Maria said.
Confirming that Jagtap and Dhagle were among those who shot at Azmi, he added that the fourth the assailant Hasmukh Shankar Solanki alias Rohit, is absconding.
"The motive behind Azmi's killing is yet to be ascertained and we are further probing the matter," he said.
However, the arrests could throw light on the motive behind the killing.
Maria said that Vidhate, who worked as a data processing supervisor in a company at Nariman Point was the mediator between the assailants and Nepali, and even collected the contract money from Nepali.
He added that Vidhate had surveyed the office of Azmi twice between Feb 6 and the day he was shot on Feb 11.
Vidhate had no criminal records, while Jagtap and Solanki are history-sheeters.
On Feb 11, three assailants, who came in an autorickshaw shot at Azmi from a close. He was later pronounced death in an nearby hospital where he was taken after the attack.
Two 7.62 mm pistols, a 9mm pistol and mobile phones were found from the suspects at the time of arrest.
Police are considering charging the attackers under the severe Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).