Kenyan presidential aide claims missing Indian dead, no official word from government yet

Former television senior executive Zulfikar Ahmed Khan, who has been missing in Kenya since July, has been killed, a close aide of Kenyan President William Ruto has claimed.

Although there was no official confirmation from the Indian government, it was reported that Khan, 48, was caught up in the bitter fight between political parties in Kenya, which witnessed elections in August this year. William Ruto won the election and became Kenya’s president in September this year, defeating incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta.

Khan was reportedly tapped by Ruto’s team, which was in opposition, to help with social media campaigns. This understandably did not go down well with Kenya’s ruling establishment, led by President Kenyatta. As a result, he was kidnapped — a claim corroborated by President Ruto’s aide Dennis Itumbi.

In a social media post on Twitter, he said the missing Indian was killed by the now-defunct Special Services Unit (SSU), a group accused of extrajudicial killings.

Zulfikar Ahmed Khan and his friend Mohammed Zaid Sami Kidwai, who were part of the Kenya Kwanzaa digital campaign team, went missing along with taxi driver Nicodemus Mwanya from Mombasa Road in July. The two were working for Ruto’s campaign, said Itumbi, who was a key player in Ruto’s presidential campaign.

Appreciating them, he said in his post on Twitter, “Sometimes when our team was overwhelmed and we needed graphics, I sent them their way (materials) and they stopped what they were doing and did me a favor.”

“They visited Mombasa, Homa Bay, (Maasai) Mara, Nyama Choma joints and also liked our dance joints. They invited me to India; I told them to visit after the election. Their eyes were primarily on enjoying Kenya as much as possible. When they sat down, they produced very interesting content,” he added.

“As usual they (Zayed and Khan) have always done something extra. A meme here, a video there, a box quote and so on,” he said. “We even had a Telegram group that was rarely silent with endless ideas.”

Just two days before they returned to India, Itumbi recalled, he learned that the two had lost a phone during a night out. “They could not be reached. Just the next day, I finally learned of their painful last moments at the hands of people whose sole aim was to ensure that Dr Ruto did not become president even if it meant killing people,” he said. “In this case they killed people whose only mistake was being our friends.”

A Kenyan media report said the Twitter posts came after President Ruto last Saturday ordered the disbandment of the SSU after two Indians were attached to the investigation unit. Officers serving in the unit are also being investigated.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that the Government of India is in touch with the Kenyan authorities in this regard.

Last week, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “As far as we understand, two Indian nationals, Zulfikar Ahmed Khan and Zayed Sami Kidwai, were missing in Kenya since mid-July. A police complaint was filed there soon after…Next , a habeas corpus petition was filed in a Kenyan court. We understand that the matter is now pending in the High Court of Kenya and several hearings have taken place.”

He said the Indian High Commission in Kenya is in touch with the Kenyan authorities.

Khan was COO of Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms and former executive of Indian entertainment channel Star Plus.

A friend of Khan said on Sunday that his friends only know what has been reported in the media so far.

His friends had earlier said that Khan had come to Kenya as a tourist and that his family and friends had stopped hearing from him around July 21. Earlier this month, his friends appealed for help from authorities in India and Kenya to find him. Khan, a Mumbai resident, left for Kenya in the last week of June, a friend said last week.

On October 20, his friends also shared a note, which reiterated that he was in Kenya as a tourist and that he met several Indians as tourists in Kenya.

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