Indian police arrest ‘masterminds’ behind brutal execution of Hindu tailor

Killing of Kanhaiyalal Teli has stoked religious tensions in Rajasthan state

Al-Qaeda threatens attacks in India over ruling party's former spokesperson's insult to Prophet

Indian police say they have arrested the “masterminds” behind the brutal beheading of a Hindu tailor in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

Three senior investigators on Saturday told Reuters they have taken two persons in custody for conspiring in the execution of Kanhaiyalal Teli, whose murder last week had stoked communal tension in the state and prompted authorities to both clamp down on protests and suspend internet services to prevent further escalation of violence.

“We have now arrested the two masterminds and previously we had arrested two men who committed the heinous crime,” said Prafulla Kumar, a senior police official based in Udaipur.

The two accused were identified as Asif Hussain and Mohsin Khan, reported the Indian Express. “They have been found to be involved in the abetment of the crime. Both are residents of Udaipur,” Ashok Rathore, a senior police official with Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) told the outlet.

Earlier on 28 June, two Muslim men – Gaus Mohammad and Riyaz Akhtari – murdered Teli, filmed the killing and posted it online.

Brandishing cleavers, the two men were seen on video gloating about the murder as they issued threats to kill Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. They claim to have killed the man in retaliation for his support for Nupur Sharma, a former spokesperson of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who sparked an international incident with comments about the Prophet Muhammad in May.

On Wednesday, home minister Amit Shah directed the country’s anti-terrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), to take over the investigation and thoroughly probe the “involvement of any organisation and international links”.

The federal agency also took over a separate case of the murder of a 54-year-old chemist in the southwestern state of Maharashtra. The man, Umesh Kolhe, was found with his throat slit on 21 June after he allegedly voiced his support for Ms Sharma, BJP politician Tushar Bhartiya was quoted as saying by NDTV.

The controversy blew out and India found itself at the centre of a diplomatic storm after the then-BJP spokesperson made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Aisha, during a debate on Times Now in May. The condemnation from Middle Eastern countries that followed ultimately led to her suspension from the party.

There have also been protests in different parts of India, neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh against Ms Sharma’s statements, demanding legal action against her.

Violent clashes were reported in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur city on 4 June, which left several people, including police officers injured.

In Afghanistan, Isis attacked a Sikh temple, killing two people and injuring at least seven. The group said the assault on “the Sikh and Hindu temple” was in response to alleged insults made against the Prophet Muhammad.

On Friday, judges from the Supreme Court of India came down heavily on Ms Sharma for making incendiary remarks, saying that her “loose tongue” has “set the entire country on fire”.

Meanwhile, Indian police arrested a Muslim journalist, Mohammed Zubair, last week – days after he brought international attention to the controversial remarks by Ms Sharma.

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