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‘More jobs’, ‘big target in Canada’: US chargesheet reveals links between murder bid on Pannun, Nijjar’s killing

Recent charges against Indian man allegedly hired by Indian government to murder Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil, has brought forth the debacle with Canada, wherein Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had informed the Canadian Parliament that they have ‘credible eviudence’ to allege that Indian government and intelligentsia was involved in the June murder of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. 

The indictments brought against one Nikhil Gupta on attempting to kill Sikh For Justice (SFJ) leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, also revealed that it had links to Nijjar’s killing earlier this year, and has prompted questions about what US agents knew in the days before his death.

The alleged crime came to forefront after a UK based daily reported that the US had thwarted a murder attempt on dual-citizen Pannun on American soil. Later it was also reported that US had shared details about investigation with Indian government. 

Further, just hours before US brought about charges against an Indian government hired man for attempted murder of Pannun, India had suo-moto announced that they formed a high-level committee to probe the murder allegations. 

Here’s what US charges in Pannun murder bid elaborate

The chargesheet details have been reported by BBC

The US Justice Department has charged Nikhil Gupta with an elaborate plot to assassinate a dual US-Canadian citizen based in New York, a plot allegedly directed by an Indian government employee.

-On 18 June, Nikhil Gupta watched a video of a Sikh separatist leader who had been shot dead in Canada in his car, his bloody body slumped over the steering wheel.

-Gupta then forwarded the video to a man he is accused of hiring as a hitman for another murder, in a different country. On the phone the next day, Mr Gupta told the man that the Canadian activist had been a “target”, “#4, #3” on a list.

“We have so many targets,” Gupta said. “The good news is this: now no need to wait.”

-Those alleged conversations were outlined in an indictment unsealed by US prosecutors on Wednesday. 

-While the target was not named by prosecutors, US media reported it was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual US-Canadian citizen and member of a US-based Sikh separatist group.

-The hitman in New York who Gupta allegedly agreed to pay $100,000 was in fact an undercover agent.

-Gupta, US officials allege, was involved in international narcotics and weapons trafficking before he was recruited by an Indian government official in May 2023 to arrange the assassination

-For weeks, the indictment alleges, Gupta tracked and monitored Pannun, following orders from the Indian government employee – who described himself in communications as a “senior field officer” with training in “battle craft”.

-The document reveals how US law enforcement infiltrated the alleged plot, setting him up with a phoney hitman, who was actually an undercover agent.

As the alleged murder plot moved forward, Gupta alluded to a long list of targets that would follow the assassination of Pannun. “More jobs, more jobs”, he said in a June phone call, cited in the indictment.

Those prospective “jobs” included cross-border operations. On 12 June, Gupta told the US law enforcement source there was a “big target” in Canada.

Six days after that, on 18 June, Nijjar was shot dead by two gunmen wearing dark clothes with hoods outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia.

-Court documents suggest, Nijjar’s murder seemed to spur Gupta on. He told the US source that Pannun’s murder should be done “quickly”. And after that was done, Gupta allegedly said, they had three more “jobs” to do before the end of June – all three in Canada.

-Nijjar was reportedly warned by Canadian law enforcement that his life was in danger soon before he was killed. But it’s unclear how much that warning was informed by US intelligence on the threat to Canadian citizens gathered through the undercover operation.

 

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Updated: 01 Dec 2023, 06:17 PM IST

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