Yunus Ansari, son of former controversial minister Salim Miyan Ansari who was arrested last year, was shot inside Kathmandu's Central Jail around 11.30 a.m., at a time the jail was crawling with policemen, informers and people visiting prisoners. The gunman mounted a meticulous operation that went awry at the last minute and he hit Ansari's shoulder instead of the heart.
The gunman, who was caught by the prison guards, has been identified as Jagjit Singh, with his home address as 47, Kanpur Road in Lucknow, the capital of India’s Uttar Pradesh state.
Singh has previously killed two men in India and targeted another three who survived, Additional Inspector General of Police Arjun Jung Shahi told journalists at a hastily called press conference.
According to the police official, Singh came to Kathmandu on Feb 5 and stayed in two different areas while he was planning the hit.
For one month before the attempt, he regularly visited Charles Sobhraj, the French criminal maestro of yesteryear, who is currently doing life in the same prison.
Police said Singh used to visit Sobhraj around the same time that Ansari’s family members used to visit him so he could have good knowledge of when Ansari would be available.
On Thursday, he entered the sprawling jail complex posing as a visitor for Sobhraj, wearing a green jacket with a cleverly concealed pocket that hid a tiny revolver.
The policemen on guard duty who conduct body searches on visitors as well as a metal detector failed to detect the weapon and Singh was allowed inside.
He was shown into the long, narrow corridor-like room where visitors meet prisoners publicly, with a wire mesh separating the two groups.
While police were bringing Sobhraj from his cell, Ansari was also in the visitors' room, talking to his brother and sister-in-law.
Singh whipped out the gun with his left hand and shot Ansari, intending to catch him at point blank range.
But a guard, Pramod Kumar Charasia, saw the movement and shook his hand, causing the bullet to hit the victim in the shoulder instead of the heart.
Police are investigating if Sobhraj, serving 20 years for the murder of an American tourist, was involved.
A hunt has also started for the two Indian accomplices of Singh - Ramu Dubedi, 35, and Suresh Dubedi, 30, both being from Lucknow.
All exit points that lead to India from Nepal are under surveillance and police have offered a reward of NRS 50,000 for information about the two men and the attempted killing.
Ansari was rushed to the Norvic hospital where he was declared out of danger.
Security was immediately beefed up, both at the prison and at the hospital.
The attempt on Ansari comes a year after his associate, Nepali cable TV mogul Jamim Shah, was shot dead, also in broad daylight, on a public road in one of the most patrolled neighbourhoods in the capital.
Shah's murderers were never found.
Ansari was also thought to have been on the hit list and his arrest providentially saved his life. Ansari was arrested in January 2010 with fake Indian currency nominally worth Rs.2.5 million and nearly 4 kg of heroin that had been handed over to his bodyguard by a courier who had flown in from Pakistan.
Though protesting his innocence, Ansari, however, opted to stay in prison after Shah's killing and rumours that the killers were also gunning for him.
Yunus Ansari's father Salim Miyan Ansari, a former forest minister from the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, criticised India and Nepal's police force.
The shooting exposes the rampant corruption in Nepal's police force and prisons. While visitors are subjected to a stringent scrutiny and have to leave mobile phones and even pen drives outside, Yunus' attacker managed to smuggle in a gun and bullets.
Ansari is also the owner of a private television station, National TV. So was Shah and the attempts on them have also been projected as attacks on the media.