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Three arrested and charged over Sikh activist's killing in Canada

Canadian police on Friday arrested and charged three Indian men with the murder of Sikh activist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year and said they were probing whether the men had ties to the Indian government.

Nijjar, 45, was shot dead in June outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh population. A few months later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cited evidence of Indian government involvement, prompting a diplomatic crisis with New Delhi. India’s government called the claim “absurd” and took steps that led Canada to withdraw more than 41 of its diplomats from the country. 

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police named the three men as Karanpreet Singh, 28, Kamalpreet Singh, 22 and Karan Brar, 22, all Indian nationals who had been in Canada for between 3 to 5 years.

"We're investigating their ties, if any, to the Indian government," Mandeep Mooker, an RCMP superintendent, told a televised news conference.

The Indian mission in Ottawa did not respond to requests for comment.

Nijjar was a Canadian citizen campaigning for the creation of Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland carved out of India. 

Last week the White House expressed concern about the reported role of the Indian intelligence service in assassination plots in Canada and the United States.

The trio, all Indian nationals, were arrested in the city of Edmonton in Alberta on Friday, police said. They are due to arrive in British Columbia by Monday.

Trudeau announced in September that Canadian authorities were pursuing allegations linking Indian government agents to the murder. New Delhi rejected Trudeau's claim as absurd.

"We welcome the arrests but this does lead to a lot more questions," said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel and spokesperson for the Canada-based World Sikh Organization advocacy group.

"Those who have been arrested are part of a hit squad but it's clear that they were directed," he said by phone.

Canada had been pressing India to cooperate in its investigation. Last November, U.S. authorities said an Indian government official had directed the plot in the attempted murder on U.S. soil of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist and dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.

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