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What we know about the arrests and the investigation into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing

Three men were arrested and charged Friday in connection with the killing of a Sikh separatist activist in B.C., a crime that fractured the diplomatic relationship between India and Canada when accusations arose that one country had orchestrated the high-profile murder of the other’s citizen on home soil.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was shot dead in what appeared to be a highly coordinated attack as he left the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., on June 18, 2023. A Canadian citizen, Nijjar was a prominent local leader in the Khalistan movement pushing for the creation of an independent Sikh state in India.

Three alleged hitmen in their 20s, all Indian nationals who arrived in Canada several years ago, have been accused of carrying out the killing.

Here’s what we know about the accused and the case.

3 men accused

The RCMP identified the men arrested Friday by their legal names, acknowledging they may also use shorter names or aliases:

  • Karan Brar, 22.
  • Kamalpreet Singh, 22.
  • Karanpreet Singh, 28.

The men are Indian nationals who had been living in Edmonton. Sources told CBC News investigators identified the three in Canada some months ago and have been keeping them under tight surveillance.

The men arrived in Canada on temporary visas, sources said, including some on student visas. None are believed to have pursued education while in Canada and none have obtained permanent residency.

RCMP said the men all arrived in the country separately between three and five years ago, but would not comment further on the suspects’ immigration statuses during a news conference on Friday.

Police expect that they will be transported to B.C. by Monday.

WATCH | The Fifth Estate shows how the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar was carried out: 

RCMP arrests 3 people in connection with killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar

3 hours ago

Duration 1:44

Supt. Mandeep Mooker of the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says three Indian nationals were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the June 2023 killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

What roles do police believe the men played?

Members of the hit squad are alleged to have played different roles as shooters, drivers and spotters the day Nijjar was killed, sources said.

The three men each face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Police believe the men plotted with others on plans to kill Nijjar, in Surrey and Edmonton between May 1, 2023 and June 18, 2023, according to court documents.

Asked by a reporter Friday whether the public should consider the men to have been “guns for hire,” police said more information would come out in court.

“The evidence will show the roles these individuals played,” said Supt. Mandeep Mooker, the officer in charge of the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

WATCH | RCMP officer describes challenges working with counterparts in India: 

RCMP calls collaboration with partner agencies in India ‘rather challenging’

3 hours ago

Duration 1:06

RCMP Assistant Commissioner David Teboul says police have been collaborating and communicating with partner agencies in India but it has been ‘difficult for the last several years.’

What about other suspects?

Police also said officers are “aware” others might have played a role in the killing. RCMP Assistant Commissioner David Teboul said the incident was still “very much under active investigation.”

RCMP were also asked whether there are any Indian “sleeper agents” in Canada, a term that refers to an operative strategically placed in another country to work as needed after potentially being inactive, or “asleep,” for months or years.

Teboul said it was a “great question,” but that he could not say more because the issue is “very much at the centre of evidence and ongoing investigations.”

How did the case affect the relationship between Canada and India?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said there is credible information pointing to the Indian government’s involvement in the assassination plot, remarks that essentially accuse India of having a hand in plans to kill a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.

Trudeau’s accusation shattered the diplomatic relationship between the two countries when it was raised in the House of Commons last September.

WATCH | Trudeau links Indian government to fatal shooting in Canada: 

Exclusive surveillance video of the targeted killing of Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18, 2023.

2 months ago

Duration 1:22

The Fifth Estate shows how the killing of a Sikh Canadian activist was carried out, allegedly by agents of the government of India.

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

Police are still investigating whether the three men arrested Friday are connected to the Indian government, according to Teboul, who said collaboration with “partner agencies” in India had been “rather challenging and difficult.”

3 more killed on Canadian soil

Sources close to the investigation also told CBC News that police are actively investigating possible links to three additional murders in Canada. Two men with links to organized crime in India were killed after Trudeau’s comments about India in the House last year, as was a young boy:

No one has been charged in their deaths to date.

RCMP said they would not comment Friday on the separate investigations in Winnipeg and Edmonton, but repeatedly noted officers in B.C. “are co-ordinating with a variety of agencies” in three to four provinces.

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