Canadian police make arrests in murder of prominent Sikh activist

Canadian police have made an arrest in the fatal 2023 shooting of prominent Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, months after authorities accused Indian government agents of involvement in the killing.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia said Friday afternoon that three people had been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into Nijjar's murder.
The three individuals – all Indian nationals – were arrested in Edmonton, Alberta, and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, RCMP Chief of Police Mandeep Mooker told reporters. journalists.
“This investigation does not stop there. “We recognize that others may have played a role in this murder, and we remain committed to tracking down and apprehending each of these individuals,” Mooker said.
He added that police were “investigating whether there was any connection with the Indian government.”
“However, as I said, this is an ongoing investigation and I have no information to provide on this matter at this time.”
Nijjar was shot dead on June 18, 2023, outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, sparking widespread condemnation.
A few months later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country's security agencies were investigating “credible allegations of possible links” between Indian government agents and Nijjar's killing.
“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the Indian government to work with Canada to address the root of this problem.”
His comments sparked a fierce backlash from India, which dismissed the accusations as “absurd” and politically motivated. New Delhi also accused Canada of not doing enough to end anti-Indian activism and “Sikh extremism.”
But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has long been accused of targeting political opponents, journalists and religious minorities, including Muslims and Sikhs, in what human rights groups say is an attempt continues to stifle dissent.
At the time of Nijjar's murder, tensions had been growing between Canada and India over the Sikh campaign for an independent state in India's Punjab region. Known as the Khalistan movement, the campaign has supporters in Canada.
Nijjar served as president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he was assassinated. He was one of those who fought for Khalistan.
Asked to comment on reports Friday that arrests had been made in this case, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc directed journalists' questions to the RCMP.
“You will understand that the developments related to the murder of a Canadian citizen, Mr. Nijjar, are part of an ongoing police operation. This operation starts today. “This is still an active police operation,” LeBlanc said in Ottawa.
According to CBC News, those arrested Friday “played different roles as shooter, driver and lookout on the day Nijjar was killed.”
“Sources say investigators identified members of the alleged shooting team in Canada several months ago and kept them under close surveillance,” the Canadian channel said.
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Nijjar's killing continues to raise questions about India's allegations of foreign interference, particularly among the diaspora Sikh community in Canada, the United States and other countries.
In September, Moninder Singh, a member of the British Columbia Gurdwara Council, told Al Jazeera that he was among five Sikh leaders – including Nijjar – who were alerted by the RCMP's national security division in 2022 to subject of threats against their lives.
Reports of an alleged plot to assassinate other prominent Sikh separatist leaders in the United States also surfaced after Nijjar's death. In late November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old Indian national.
Gupta is accused of participating in a failed attempt to assassinate U.S. citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, working with Indian government employees and others.
The Washington Post reported this week that U.S. intelligence officials determined that the operation to target Pannun was approved by the head of India's foreign intelligence service at the time, known as RAW.
The Indian government has rejected the allegations, calling them “baseless” and “unproven,” according to media reports.
On Monday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre called the Washington Post report “serious.”
“The Indian government has been very clear with us that it takes this seriously and will investigate – and we expect the government to be held accountable,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a news conference .
He added that Washington would continue to raise its concerns with New Delhi.

Chad Sutton

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