Bengaluru: The special investigation team (SIT) probing the murder of senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh on Saturday released three crude sketches—recreated based on eye witness accounts—of two possible suspects who could have carried out the killing.

“Based on the information collected during the investigation, we have prepared sketches of suspected accused persons of this case," the SIT said in a statement issued to the media on Saturday.

However, the release of the sketches was to make a public appeal to try and gather more information on the leads procured so far. Lankesh was shot multiple times outside her home in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar at around 8pm on 5 September by unknown persons. Her murder was immediately likened to similar assassinations of three other rationalists—Narendra Dabholakar, Govind Pansare, M.M.Kalburgi—in neighbouring Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The investigating team said that it had negated the “professional" angle as motive of the crime. B.K.Singh, the head of the SIT said that the murder was not the result of her journalistic work but added that Lankesh was also an activist and there were other angles which included personal angles that it would probe.

With the bullets from her body and empty cartridges, the SIT have been able to identify that a 7.65mm country made weapon was used to carry out the killing.

Singh said that the suspects—aged between 25 and 35—stayed in Bengaluru for at least one week before committing the crime.

Singh’s statements also clarified that they are yet to find any scientific evidence to link Lankesh’s murder with the other three rationalists as reported by some sections of the media. “There are similarities and dissimilarities in the case," Singh said to questions on links between the murders that a section of society have decoded to call “attempts to silence free speech."

Various protests were held across the country condemning the killing. Lankesh was a vociferous critic of many contentious issues including Hindutva, which gave room for speculation that some radical right wing organisations were behind this murder.

The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka has been under extreme pressure to show progress in the Lankesh murder case as political opposition have used its inability to make any headway in the Kalburgi case, brutal murders in Mangalore and alleged irregularities in the Bengaluru central jail among others as a sign of fledgling law and order in the state.

Even in the Kalburgi case, the probing agencies were quick to release sketches but have not been able to make any headway in arresting the suspects. Singh said that they had taken over two days to create each sketch which was done with the help of professionals and the sketches were nothing like those in Kalburgi probe.

Singh said over 200-250 people have been questioned in this case and over 75 terabytes of CCTV footage examined. A short CCTV video was also released which the SIT claim could have been that of the killers.

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