A dreaded shooter associated with gangster turned politician Mukhtar Ansari and also an accused in BJP leader Krishnanand Rai’s 2005 murder was gunned down by Uttar Pradesh special task force on the outskirts of Lucknow on Sunday morning, police officials said.
Rakesh Pandey alias Hanuman Pandey carried a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head, officials added.
They said Pandey was involved in several murders and shoot-outs, carried out allegedly by Mukhtar Ansari’s gang in the past 27 years. Ansari was accused of hatching a conspiracy to kill Rai– an MLA from Mohammadabad assembly constituency in Ghazipur– while in jail, but was acquitted during trial in a lower court.
Mukhtar Ansari and another gangster Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi are also accused in Rai’s murder case.
Bajrangi was shot dead by another gangster Sunil Rathi inside Baghpat jail on July 9, 2018.
STF inspector general (IG) of police Amitabh Yash said a team was continuously trying to track Pandey for the past many months.
“Pandey was gunned down in retaliatory firing while the team was trying to arrest him when he came to meet one of his accomplices on Kanpur Road, under Sarojini Nagar police station limits,” Yash said.
He said Pandey was in a four-wheeler with four other people but the others managed to escape during the encounter.
Another STF official said Pandey had at least 10 criminal cases registered against him between 1993 and 2012. He added that no criminal case was lodged against him after 2012, however, his involvement surfaced in two cases, including fraudulent procurement of firearms licence in his wife Saroj Lata Pandey’s name in Mau in 2004 and purchase of two pistols from a gangster Neeraj Singh in May 2020.
The official said a case of procuring firearms licence was lodged against his wife and the then station officer of Kopaganj police station Mritunjay Mishra (for negligence) at the Kopaganj police station of Mau on July 8 this year.
He added that the STF was, however, tracing him since May 28 this year when the arrest of two criminals — Neeraj Singh and Shubham Mishra — revealed that Pandey was collecting firearms and ammunition and was planning some crime.