Anatomy of a shootout

How does the underworld plan a public killing like the one at Kala Ghoda this week, answers J Dey.
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Published on Oct 22, 2006 01:44 PM IST
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None | By J Dey, Mumbai

1)Why do gangs resort to daylight shootouts – is it a last resort?


Such shootouts in public are obviously high-risk operations and occur only when there is no option. But they have their advantages, the main one being that the target is usually eliminated since he’s taken by surprise. Also, the target is vulnerable in public because he either cannot carry any weapons of his own or, if he does, cannot keep them handy.


On the downside, chances are high that the shooter is captured or lynched by a mob. He could be challenged by an armed policeman or patrol. Sometimes the target’s associates will also retaliate in self-defence. But sometimes, like in the Monday incident, the assassins can escape.


2) Why do we see so many shootouts in court?


Because the date for a hearing in court is fixed and the assassins (or the don who hires them) can be sure of the time and location for the operation.  Also, the target will be unarmed since he will not be able to carry weapons into court.


3) Why don’t they eliminate the target in secrecy at his home?


A suspicious rival almost always has a ring of associates protecting him. Most of them, like gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli, also have tall steel gates to guard them against surprise raids. Dawood Ibrahim’s home at Pakmodia Street is similarly defended. Needless to say, both the target and his associates will be armed, making retaliation inevitable. Moreover, escaping from rival territory is doubly difficult since all exit routes will be guarded.


4) How many people are usually involved in a shootout?


Between six and eight on an average. Operations are the result of intricate teamwork. Shooters are usually members of a core group who work well together.


Arms are provided by the gang ordering the killing and have to be returned once the job is done. It usually begins with a supari accepted by a don, or with a group decision to eliminate rivals.


The task is then handed over to a group leader, for each gang will have several independent groups within it (the Gawli gang had over a dozen separate groups, most divided area-wise).


The ‘watcher’ is lowest in the hierarchy. His job is to collect petty information about the target, like his everyday habits, favoured visiting places, association with girlfriend(s) and court cases if any. In some cases the information is provided by the enemy, at whose behest the killing takes place.


A backup of three to four members assist the shooters after the killing. Their tasks include facilitating the getaway, providing a safe house to go into hiding and sometimes, finances for the fleeing hit squad.


Police records indicate at least two watchers who were trailing slain

police informer Amjad Khan who was killed in a shootout on Monday. They were in court, followed Khan as he left and were probably at Kala Ghoda before the shooters took over.


Another group with a getaway car could have been positioned across the road to help the shooters escape in the direction of Rhythm House.


5) How long does it take to plan such an incident?


Patience is the name of the game. Every detail has to fit into place, for failure could mean reprisal. The watching cannot be rushed. It took more than two months of watching in the case of Khan, believes encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma. Members of the Chhota Shakeel gang waited two years before they killed Bharat Shah, the owner of Roopam store, in 1998.


6) How much do shooters get paid?


A frontline shooter would charge Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000. Shooters from Uttar Pradesh are known to have been paid as little as Rs 5,000 as an advance. Another Rs 5,000 would be due after the job is done—if he lives to collect it. Robber gangs will do it at even cheaper rates.


7) How do they escape? 


The easiest method is to get into a waiting taxi and make it to the nearest railway station. Shooters usually avoid using their own cars since the police has their numbers and they will soon be snared in a naka–bandi. There are often multiple getaway vehicles as well.


Then they make their way to a hideout. This is often a luxurious furnished

apartment, well stocked with food, alcohol, cigarettes and additional sim cards for phones.


8) What is the success rate?


The strike rate is high as the target is caught off guard. However the chances of the shooter getting caught are equally high. The modus operandi often bears telltale clues to the identity of the shooters.


The D-Company prefers 9 mm calibre pistols smuggled in through the Gujarat-Rajasthan border, while the Chhota Rajan gang uses pistols obtained from South East Asia. The arrest of one shooter leads to the other and soon, the entire group can be rounded up

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