Murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Canadian police arrest ‘hit squad’ members

Relations between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of “possible” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar in September 2023.

A sign demanding an investigation into India’s role in the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada on September 20, 2023.

According to a media report, Canadian police on May 3 arrested three members of an alleged hit squad investigators say in Ottawa, who the Indian government says had tasked them with the assassination of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey in 2023.

India has rejected Mr Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd” and “motivated”. CTV News quoted a senior government source as saying that three people have been arrested and charged with Nijjar’s murder.

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

Nijjar, 45, died on June 18, 2023, in Surrey, B.C. He was shot dead outside a Gurudwara. He was a Canadian citizen.

The indictment filed Friday alleges the conspiracy occurred 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) reported that police are actively investigating possible links to three additional murders in Canada, including the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy in Edmonton .

According to sources, the members of the hit squad are accused of playing different roles as shooter, driver and spotter on the day Nijjar was murdered.

The men were arrested during police operations in at least two provinces on May 3, the report said.

Sources said investigators had identified members of the alleged hit squad in Canada a few months ago and they have been kept under close surveillance.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are expected to announce arrests and share some details of their investigation on May 3.

India rejected Prime Minister Trudeau’s latest comments on the killing of Nijjar on May 2, saying these comments once again reflect the political space given to separatism, extremism and violence in Canada.

Mr. Trudeau addressed a Khalsa Day event in Toronto on April 28, which was attended by some Khalistan supporters. On the sidelines of the event, he told the media that Nijjar’s murder had created a “problem” and he could not ignore it, in an apparent reference to his earlier allegations of involvement of Indian agents in the murder.

“PM Trudeau has made such comments before. His comments once again reflect the political space given to separatism, extremism and violence in Canada, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at his weekly media briefing in New Delhi.

Asked about Mr Trudeau’s comments, he said, “This not only affects India-Canada relations, but also promotes an environment of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens.”

India also summoned the Canadian Deputy High Commissioner on May 29 and lodged a strong protest with him over pro-Khalistan slogans being raised at the event in the presence of Mr Trudeau and several other leaders. Nijjar was a Khalistani separatist and was wanted in India on various terror charges.

Days after Mr Trudeau’s allegations, India asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure parity. After this Canada recalled 41 diplomats and their family members from India.

India has been insisting that its “core issue” with Canada is the space given to separatists, terrorists and anti-India elements in that country. Following Mr Trudeau’s allegations last year, India temporarily suspended issuing visas to Canadian citizens. Visa services were resumed several weeks later.