3 charged with murder in killing of B.C. Sikh leader

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) and the RCMP announced they have arrested and charged three people in the first-degree murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Monika Gul reports.

By Charlie Carey, Charles Brockman, Srushti Gangdev

Three people have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in relation to the killing of a Surrey Sikh leader in 2023.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a high-profile pro-Khalistan activist, was shot and killed in broad daylight outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on June 18, 2023.

In an update Friday, the RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team explained three Indian nationals were taken into custody in Edmonton Friday morning.

Gurdwara council president relieved but still has questions

The president of the BC Sikh Gurdwara Council Moninder Singh says the arrests come as a “sigh of relief,” but there’s still a very important question remaining — he wants to know the extent to which India played a hand in the crime.

“The arrests provide some relief around getting [the suspects] off the street,” Moninder Singh told CityNews sister station OMNI News. “But if India’s just going to go and hire somebody else to carry out operations — that’s still outstanding.”

Police arrest, charge, three young men for murder in the first-degree

Kamalpreet Singh, Karanpreet Singh, and Karan Brar have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Surrey and Edmonton along with a murder in Surrey on June 18 of last year.

The Surrey RCMP said it will be releasing photos of the accused men in hopes of receiving information related to their presence in Surrey during the time of the murder.

IHIT said it cannot yet speak on the nature of evidence or motives. Police say this matter is still very much under investigation, not limited to these arrests, and also includes investigating ties to the Indian government.

The CBC reported earlier Friday that it believes the suspects entered Canada in 2021 as international students “although with no intention of pursuing education.” They entered the country and did not seek permanent resident status, but “immediately” turned to criminality, and not long after plotted the conspiracy to murder Nijjar, the broadcaster added.

Police declined to confirm the suspects’ immigration status, but say they have been living in Canada “altogether three to five years.”

Since the murder of Nijjar, the CBC reported that police believe there have been three more killings by the same ‘hit squad’, including two in Edmonton and one in Winnipeg.

Canada’s politicians ‘horrified’ at killing’s connections to India

Last September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that Ottawa was investigating “credible allegations” that New Delhi had been involved in Nijjar’s killing – starting a diplomatic firestorm between the two countries.

At a press event Friday, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh confirmed there’s intelligence that connects the assassination to the Indian government.

“That is horrific —that a foreign government would kill a Canadian on Canadian soil,” said Jagmeet Singh. “Arrests being made are a positive step. And we want to see everyone that was responsible [for] this held to account.”

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Dominic Leblanc declined to comment directly on the matter Friday, instead directing all questions to police.

“This is a matter of an ongoing active police investigation that likely and very clearly will end up before criminal courts,” said Leblanc. “There was a high certainty that the government knew that foreign states were responsible for online activity.”

In November 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it had charged an Indian national in connection with the foiled assassination attempt of a Khalistani separatist leader in that country, who has ties to Canada.

The office explained at the time that the would-be victim, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual Canadian-U.S. citizen “was an associate” of Sikh leader Nijjar.

The Attorney General said it’s alleged Nikhil Gupta was directed by an Indian government official — identified only as CC-1 — between May and June to hire someone to carry out the murder of Pannun in the U.S. It noted that didn’t happen because the contracted killer was actually an undercover U.S. agent.

The office added that it linked Nijjar’s killing to the alleged plot against Pannun in the U.S. and alleged Gupta was also involved in communications about the 45-year-old temple president’s death.

Surrey RCMP thankful for strength of community

Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner, Brian Edwards said he’s grateful to the residents and members of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara of Surrey.

“It had a profound impact on the residents of Surrey, and notwithstanding today the announcing of charges, Those scars will remain in our community for some time,” he said. “Despite their intense grief and pain, those representatives of our community, they provided their support, their patience and their trust.”

In a statement Friday, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke echoed Edwards’ sentiments.

“I am grateful for the strength and unity that has been demonstrated by all who have been affected by this heinous crime,” said Locke. “Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of the victim.”

CityNews has reached out to the Surrey Guru Nanak Gurdwara and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth for comment.

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