Three Indian nationals arrested for murder of alleged Khalistan lawyer

TORONTO: Canadian police have arrested three Indian nationals who investigators believe are members of an alleged assassination squad charged by the Indian government with the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey last year, police said.

Ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations in September last year about the ‘potential’ involvement of Indian agents in Nijjar’s murder.

India has dismissed Trudeau’s allegations as ‘absurd’ and ‘motivated’. David Teboul, deputy commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said three people have been arrested and charged in the murder of Sikh activist Nijjar.

At a press conference on Friday, he said that in addition to the murder case, there are also separate investigations into possible connections with the government of India, The Toronto Star newspaper reported.

Teboul emphasized that the murder “remains fully under investigation,” CTV News reported.

“There are separate and distinct investigations into these matters, certainly not limited to the involvement of the people arrested today, and these efforts include investigating links to the government of India,” he told the news channel.

At the press conference, Chief Inspector Mandeep Mooker, who heads the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said the suspects were ”not known to the police” before the investigation into Nijjar’s death.

Mooker identified the suspects as Karan Brar, Karanpreet Singh and Kamalpreet Singh, all men in their 20s, who were arrested in Edmonton on Friday.

Mooker said all three are Indian nationals and have been living in Canada as non-permanent residents for the past three to five years.

He said coordination with India has been “challenging and quite difficult” in recent years.

Mooker said his research was dependent on support from the Sikh community.

“We would not be at this point without the bravery and courage of the Sikh community in coming forward with information for this investigation,” he said, adding that he believes they will continue to come forward for any possible investigation, according to the report future studies. .

Court documents show that Karanpreet Singh, Kamalpreet Singh and Karan Brar each face one charge of first-degree murder and one charge of conspiracy to commit murder in Nijjar’s death.

Nijjar, 45, was shot outside his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., on June 18, 2023. He was a Canadian citizen.

Citing sources, a report in Global News said the suspects had entered Canada on “student visas but may have been working under the direction of Indian intelligence when they shot Nijjar.” According to court records, Brar has been charged with a murder that occurred in Surrey on June 18, 2023. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder on May 1, 2023 in Edmonton and Surrey, the report said.

Speaking to reporters, Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc declined to confirm the connection to the Indian government, saying such questions are best answered by the RCMP.

“I have complete confidence in the security apparatus of the Canadian government and the work of the RCMP, and the work that the (Canadian) Security Intelligence Service is doing,” Leblanc said.

“I think the police operation you’re seeing today confirms that the RCMP takes these matters very seriously. “But questions regarding specific links or non-links are rightly referred to the RCMP,” he added.

Friday’s indictments allege the conspiracy unfolded in both Surrey and Edmonton between May 1, 2023 and the date of Nijjar’s murder.

Citing sources close to the investigation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports that police are actively investigating possible links to three additional murders in Canada, including the shooting of an 11-year-old boy in Edmonton.

Members of the hit squad are believed to have played various roles as gunmen, drivers and spotters on the day Nijjar was killed at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, according to the sources.

Sources said investigators identified the alleged hit squad members in Canada several months ago and kept them under close surveillance.

India had on Thursday rejected fresh comments from Prime Minister Trudeau on Nijjar’s killing, saying the remarks once again illustrated the political space given to separatism, extremism and violence in Canada.

Trudeau addressed a Khalsa Day event in Toronto on Sunday, which was attended by some pro-Khalistan supporters.

On the sidelines of the event, he told the media that the killing of Nijjar in British Columbia in June last year created a “problem” and that he cannot ignore it, in an apparent reference to his previous allegations of involvement of Indian agents. at the murder.

Prime Minister Trudeau has made similar comments before. His comments once again illustrate the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence,” said foreign ministry spokesman Randhir Jaiswal in New Delhi during his weekly media briefing.

“This not only impacts India-Canada relations, but also encourages a climate of violence and crime in Canada at the expense of its own citizens,” he said when asked about Trudeau’s comments.

India also summoned the Canadian Deputy High Commissioner on Monday and lodged a strong protest with him against raising pro-Khalistan slogans at the event in the presence of Trudeau and several other leaders. Nijjar was a Khalistani separatist wanted in India on suspicion of terror.

“It’s a problem in our relations with India because we can’t ignore that,” Trudeau said of Nijjar’s killing.

Days after Trudeau’s accusations, India asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure equality. Canada subsequently withdrew 41 diplomats and their family members from India.

India has claimed that its ‘core problem’ with Canada continues to be the space given to separatists, terrorists and anti-India elements in that country.

Following Trudeau’s allegations last year, India temporarily suspended issuing visas to Canadian citizens. Visa services resumed several weeks later.