A policeman was killed when at least two gunmen attacked an unarmed police picket at the Khilwat junction of the communally sensitive Old City area of Hyderabad on Friday evening, four days ahead of the third anniversary of the blast at Mecca Masjid.

Constable V. Ramesh and his colleague Sri Hari were under a tree when two youths drove up to them on a motorcycle. One of them whipped out a weapon and shot at the policemen. Eye witnesses said Ramesh made a vain bid to jump into a moving auto-rickshaw, as people ran helter-skelter on hearing the shots. The assailants chased him for over 20 yards and pumped two bullets into him at close range before fleeing.

He was part of a five-member picket posted about a kilometre away from the historic Mecca Masjid. Three of his colleagues were away when the attack took place.

“I heard three shots. I rushed out and found the bleeding policeman lying on the road,” recalled Hussain Soof, a tourist operator, who had called in an ambulance. Ramesh died while being shifted to the Osmania General Hospital.

Hyderabad Police Commissioner A.K. Khan, told The Hindu that police suspected the involvement of Vikaruddin, an alleged operative of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who reportedly masterminded a similar attack earlier.

Forensic experts who sifted the area found two spent cartridges and a blood-stained CD believed to have been left behind by the assailants. The CD contained a statement by an outfit, Tehrik-e-Galba Islami, that the attack was in retaliation for the bomb explosions at Mecca Masjid in 2007. The statement is in the name of Mohd. Fasiuddin.

Experts said the caliber of the bullets fired matched those used to kill another policeman on December 8, 2008 at Falaknuma.