Canada arrests 3 Indian nationals for Hardeep Singh Nijjar's murder

 Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar
A mural features the image of late Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was slain on the grounds of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in June 2023, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada September 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Ottawa: Canadian police have arrested three Indian nationals believed by investigators to be members of an alleged hit squad tasked by the government of India with the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey last year, police said. The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September last year of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar.

India has dismissed Trudeau's charges as "absurd" and "motivated." Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Assistant Commissioner David Teboul said that three people have been arrested and charged in the killing of Sikh activist Nijjar.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, he said that in addition to the murder case, separate investigations are looking into possible connections to the Government of India, The Toronto Star newspaper reported.

Teboul stressed that the murder remains "very much under active investigation," CTV News reported. "There are separate and distinct investigations ongoing into these matters, certainly not limited to the involvement of the people arrested today, and these efforts include investigating connections to the government of India," he was quoted as saying by the news channel.

During the press conference, Superintendent Mandeep Mooker, who leads the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said that 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 on Friday in Edmonton.

Mooker said all three are Indian nationals and have been living as non-permanent residents in Canada for the last three to five years. He said coordination with India has been "challenging and rather difficult for the last several years". Mooker said that his investigation has relied on the Sikh community's support.

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

Court documents show Karanpreet Singh, Kamalpreet Singh and Karan Brar are each facing one count of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to murder in Nijjar's death.

Nijjar, 45, was gunned down outside his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., on June 18, 2023. He was a Canadian citizen. Citing sources, a report in Global News said that the suspects had entered Canada on student visas but may have been working at 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 also faces a charge of conspiracy to murder on May 1, 2023, in Edmonton and Surrey, the report said.

Talking to reporters, Canada's Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc declined to confirm the Indian government connection, saying such questions are best addressed by the RCMP.

"I have full confidence in the security apparatus of the government of Canada and the work of the RCMP, and the work that the (Canadian) Security Intelligence Service does," Leblanc said.

"I think the police operation that you see ongoing today confirms that the RCMP take these matters extremely seriously. But questions with respect to particular links or non-links are properly put to the RCMP," he added.

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

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

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

Sources said investigators identified the alleged hit squad members in Canada some months ago and have been keeping them under tight surveillance.

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

Trudeau addressed a Khalsa Day event in Toronto on Sunday that 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 earlier allegations of involvement of Indian agents in the assassination.

"PM Trudeau has made such remarks earlier as well. His remarks illustrate once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism, and violence," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in New Delhi at his weekly media briefing.

"This not only impacts India-Canada relations but also encourages a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens," he said when asked about Trudeau's remarks.

India on Monday also summoned the Canadian deputy high commissioner and lodged a strong protest with him over the raising of pro-Khalistan slogans at the event in the presence of Trudeau and several other leaders. Nijjar was a Khalistani separatist and he was wanted in India on various terror charges.

"It is a problem in our relations with India because we cannot ignore that," Trudeau said on the killing of Nijjar.

Days after Trudeau's allegations, India asked Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure parity. Subsequently, Canada withdrew 41 diplomats and their family members from India. India has been asserting that its "core issue" with Canada remained that of the space given to separatists, terrorists and anti-India elements in that country. Following Trudeau's allegations last year, India temporarily suspended the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens. The visa services were resumed several weeks later.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.