Canadian police arrest 3 men in connection with killing of Sikh separatist Nijjar: CBC News report
The three, Kamalpreet Singh, Karanpreet Singh and Karan Brar, face first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the Nijjar case

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Hardeep Singh Nijjar
File pic of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar


Ottawa, May 3: Canadian police on Friday arrested three men who they claim are members of a “hit squad” that investigators believe was “tasked by the Indian government” with killing of prominent Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, in June last year, CBC News reported.

Sources close to the investigation told CBC News that police are actively investigating their 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, according to the sources quoted by CBC.

The men were arrested Friday during police operations in at least two provinces. Sources said investigators had identified the alleged hit squad members in Canada some months ago and have been keeping them under tight surveillance.

The three, Kamalpreet Singh, Karanpreet Singh and Karan Brar, face first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the Nijjar case, according to documents filed in a Surrey court on Friday. The charges have not been tested in court.

The sources told CBC News the men arrested Friday in relation to Nijjar’s killing are Indian citizens who arrived in Canada on temporary visas after 2021, some of them student visas. None are believed to have pursued education while in Canada. None have obtained permanent residency.

All are alleged associates of a criminal group in Punjab and neighboring Haryana state that is associated with notorious Punjabi gangster Lawrence Bishnoi, currently held in India’s high-security Sabarmati prison in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, according to sources close to the investigation.

Bishnoi is accused by the Indian government of the shooting murder of Punjabi singer-politician Sidhu Moose Wala, a former resident of Brampton, Ontario, in Punjab in May 2022, as well as drug smuggling and extortion.

CBC News said it learned of the arrests through extensive discussions with senior investigative and government sources, as well as members of the Sikh community.

Nijjar, a 45-year-old Canadian citizen, was shot dead on June 18, shortly after evening prayers at his Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack, according to video of the incident obtained by CBC’s The Fifth Estate.

Last August, Canadian officials told representatives of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in person that Canada had intelligence linking it to Nijjar’s killing.

A month later — on Sept. 18, 2023, not long after returning from a fraught visit to India for the G20 Summit — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons to state that “Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and Nijjar’s killing.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he added.

Modi’s government has denied it ordered extrajudicial killings in the U.S. and Canada. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar initially decried the Canadian allegation as “absurd” and accused Canada of harbouring violent extremists.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said any foreign government involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.

Bloomberg reported in March that the Indian government had given the U.S. a report in which it acknowledged that Indian agents were involved in the U.S. murder plot, but claimed they were rogue operatives.

During a roundtable with Canadian Punjabi media on Sunday, Trudeau said the work by intelligence and police agencies was ongoing.

“It is very good and rigorous work. And when the time comes for them to conclude that investigation, there will be some very, very clear things that everyone around the world, including in India, will see as to responsibilities and involvement,” he said.

Others allegedly killed by the hit quad include Sukhdool Singh Gill, 39, of Winnipeg, who was found shot to death in a duplex in the city’s northwest in September last year.

Gill was part of the Davinder Bambiha gang in India, according to police documents in that country. Indian media have reported that he fled to Canada in 2017 using a false passport.

Gill was one of Punjab’s most wanted men, accused of extortion and arranging money for gang members to buy weapons. Police in India have publicly linked him to murders and other serious crimes.

Six weeks after Gill’s death, another alleged Indian gangland figure in another western province was shot dead in a brazen daylight attack that also claimed the life of his 11-year-old son.

Harpreet Uppal, a 41-year-old with links to organized crime, was shot dead in his vehicle in a busy suburban shopping area of Edmonton on Nov. 9, 2023. Two boys were in the vehicle, Uppal’s 11-year-old son, Gavin, and a friend.

The Edmonton Police Service later said the killers shot both father and son, while sparing the other boy.

Bishnoi was one of two jailed Indian gangsters who claimed responsibility on social media for Gill’s killing last September, describing it as revenge for a previous gangland killing in India, according to widespread Indian media reports.

India has long alleged that Punjabi gangsters are able to use Canada as a base to squeeze money from business owners and others in India, relying on an army of low-paid gunmen to act as collectors and enforcers back home.

According to both an unsealed U.S. federal indictment and Canadian investigators, the Indian government itself took advantage of those criminal networks to go after its enemies in Canada and the U.S. — enemies such as Nijjar and Khalistani activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, reportedly the target of an unsuccessful assassination plot in the U.S.