Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Conspiracy to kill four Sikh leaders

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US prosecutors have charged an Indian national with plotting to kill at least four Sikh leaders in North America

US prosecutors have charged an Indian national with plotting to kill at least four Sikh leaders in North America.

The incident of filing a complaint against an Indian citizen is linked to the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June this year.

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As a result, questions have been raised about what information US intelligence knew about Nijjar’s murder in the days before.

On June 18, pro-Khalistan leader Nijjar was killed in his car outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia, Canada. This Canadian Sikh leader was shot dead by two gunmen. After the shooting, his bloody frozen body was lying on the steering wheel of the car.

Indian citizen Nikhil Gupta (52) saw a video of this incident on the same day. He later sent the video to another person. This person was allegedly hired by Nikhil for another murder in another country.

The next day Nikhil called the person (hired killer) and said that this Canadian Sikh leader (Nijjar) was on the kill list.

Nikhil said, ‘We have many targets.’

US Attorneys released the indictment on Wednesday. The charge sheet mentions the said conversation.

The US Department of Justice charged Nikhil with conspiracy to kill Sikh leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US-Canadian dual citizen living in New York.

According to the chargesheet, a conspiracy to kill pro-Khalistan leader Pannun was hatched under the direction of an Indian government official.

The plan to kill Pannun failed. Nikhil was arrested in the Czech Republic on June 30.

Nikhil wanted to pay US$100,000 to a New York ‘hired killer’ to kill Pannoon. This ‘hitman’ was actually an undercover US agent.

The 15-page charge sheet contains new information about Nijjar’s murder. In view of this, new questions have arisen about who knew what before the murder.

Pro-Khalistan wants to build an independent state for the Sikh community in India. Both Nijjar and Pannun are on the Indian government’s ‘terrorist’ list.

Months after Nijjar’s murder, a major diplomatic spat broke out between India and Canada over the issue last September.

At that time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the country’s parliament that his government had credible information about India’s involvement in Nijjar’s murder.

India rejected Trudeau’s allegations as ‘absurd’.

The issue of Nijjar’s killing subsequently worsened relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Trudeau is under pressure to provide evidence for his allegations against India.

In the context of filing complaints against Indian citizens in the United States, Trudeau said last Wednesday that India should now take Canada’s complaint seriously.

Experts say the move to file charges against the Indian national in the US has strengthened Trudeau’s claim.

Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, told the BBC that the evidence that has now emerged is much stronger than what Trudeau said last September. The US indictment alleges a conspiracy to kill the four. Three of them are from Canada. Nijjar’s killings did not happen in isolation.

When Trudeau leveled accusations against India, there was no strong response from Canada’s allies.

US officials expressed concern over Nijjar’s killing. However, they did not speak in tune with Trudeau’s demands. Again they refrained from condemning India directly.

But now it is known that the White House was aware of the US investigation into the plot to assassinate Sikh leaders by hired assassins weeks before Trudeau made the matter public.

A senior US official confirmed that President Joe Biden raised his concerns with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi.

‘Canada has a big target’

According to US officials, Nikhil was previously involved in international drug and arms trafficking. He was hired by an Indian government official in May 2023 to arrange the killing of a man.

The US indictment did not name the targets. However, it is known that Nijjar’s associate Pannun was the target of this murder.

According to the charge sheet, Nikhil had been monitoring Pannun’s movements for several weeks on the instructions of the Indian government official. He was describing himself as a ‘senior field officer’ in the conversation.

The indictment details how US law enforcement agencies uncovered the alleged assassination plot. Nikhil’s ‘hired killer’ was their undercover agent.

The conspiracy to kill Pannun was proceeding. Nikhil even hinted at a long list of who will be killed after Pannun.

In a phone call last June, Nikhil said there were more acts (murders), the charge sheet said. These potential tasks included cross-border ‘operations’.

On June 12, Nikhil told US law enforcement agents that there was a big target in Canada. Six days later, Nijjar was killed in Canada on June 18.

The National Police of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are still investigating Nijjar’s murder. They did not comment on the US indictment.

U.S. attorneys have not alleged that alleged U.S. conspirators were involved in Nijjar’s murder. However, according to them, Nikhil and his Indian employer discussed the matter immediately after Nijjar’s murder.

According to the US indictment, Nikhil told the Indian government official that he wanted to take part in Nijjar’s murder.

Nikhil called the US law enforcement agent immediately after Nijjar’s murder. He told the agent that he had mentioned a large target in Canada a few days earlier, and that he was innocent.

Nikhil was saying, ‘This is that guy. I am sending you the video. Another person did this (killing).’

Nijjar’s killing appears to have been encouraged by Nikhil, US court documents indicate. Because, he told the US agent, Pannun must be finished quickly. Then they have to do three more tasks before the end of June. All three works are from Canada.

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