Missing Indians killed by disbanded special services unit, says Kenyan Presidential aide

They were part of the social media team of President William Ruto and helped "immensely" in the political campaign

October 22, 2022 04:47 pm | Updated 07:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Former COO of Balaji Telefilms Zulfikar Ahmad Khan (in picture) and his friend Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai were part of the social media team of Kenyan President William Ruto. Photo: Instagram/zulfizak

Former COO of Balaji Telefilms Zulfikar Ahmad Khan (in picture) and his friend Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai were part of the social media team of Kenyan President William Ruto. Photo: Instagram/zulfizak

Two Indian nationals missing in Kenya for nearly three months were killed by a notorious special forces unit that was disbanded by the new Kenyan administration, an advisor to President William Ruto has announced.

Condemning the now defunct Special Services Unit, SSU, Denis Itumbi, said the former COO of Balaji Telefilms Zulfikar Ahmad Khan and his friend Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai were part of the social media team of President William Ruto and helped "immensely" in the political campaign.

“We became friends. Sometimes when our team was overwhelmed and we needed a graphic, I sent their way and they paused whatever they were doing and did me the favour. As usual they always did something extra. A meme here, a video there, a box quote and much more. We even had a Telegram group, that rarely went silent, with endless ideas. Zaid and Ahmad were just good people who became my friends and in the process connected with some in our team,” said Mr Itumbi in a Facebook post, putting out details of collaboration between the two Indian nationals and Mr. Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance. He however did not detail the reason behind the steps taken by the SSU.

Zulfikar Ahmad Khan, 48, last worked as the COO of Balaji Telefilms. Before that he was the Managing Director of the OTT platform HOOQ and the Business Head and Chief Revenue Officer of Eros Now. He started his career with Star India and rose to be the senior vice president of Advertising Sales where he managed several channels like Star Plus, Star Gold, Star Sports, National Geographic and popular music outlet Channel V. According to a close friend, Mr Khan left Balaji Telefilms earlier this year and was "in between jobs" during the summer when he went on a vacation to Kenya. He denied that Mr Khan was involved in any other activity apart from travel and tourism.

The friend of Mr Khan said that they would wait for the forensic reports to confirm the claims made by Mr Itumbi. Earlier this month, President Ruto disbanded the Special Services Unit (SSU) under the Directorate of Criminal Investigation which was set up more than two decades ago and was accused of many extra judicial killings and "enforced disappearances". Disbanding of the SSU was the first big step by the administration of Mr Ruto who won the bitter presidential campaign defeating former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr Khan's friends have maintained that he contacted them last on July 21 and thereafter there was no communication from him.

Mr Itumbi said in a Facebook post that cctv footage has shown that the vehicle that Mr Khan and Mr Kidwai were travelling was stopped by vehicles belonging to the special forces unit and they were "dragged" away along with the driver of the car. They were held in a container for three days and were driven to the Aberdare mountain range near the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The matter is still being investigated, he said. It is however not yet clear why the Special Services Unit targeted Mr Khan and Mr Kidwai. His friends maintain that they were not involved in local political affairs as alleged by Mr Itumbi. Ministry of External Affairs is yet to comment on the claims from Mr Itumbi though they stated last week that India is keeping a "close watch" on the case.

The SSU had been criticised by rights groups in Africa and were accused of hundreds of "enforced disappearances" over the past two decades. The murdered individuals would often be found floating in the Yala river . Human rights groups have demanded that disbanding of the SSU is not sufficient and that President Ruto should prosecute the commanders of the unit who are accused of hundreds of disappearances.

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