Sunday, June 16, 2024

U.S. says Indian government official directed plot to assassinate Sikh activist

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Authorities in the United States have said that an Indian government official directed a failed plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on U.S. soil, as they announced charges against a man accused of orchestrating the attempted murder.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old Indian man, had worked with an Indian government intelligence and security worker in a clandestine effort to kill a Sikh activist in New York.

Prosecutors did not name the Indian official or the target, but described the target as a critic of the Indian government and an advocate for an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region, home to a large number of Sikhs and once the site of a movement to create Khalistan – a Sikh homeland independent from India.

Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition.

“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” said Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said that Gupta allegedly planned to pay an assassin $100,000 to carry out the killing.

The charges have come a week after a senior member of the administration of President Joe Biden said that the U.S. had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the U.S., and two months after Canadian authorities accused the Indian government of involvement in the assassination of a Sikh activist in Canada.

That official said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who says he is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, was the target of the foiled plot.

India’s embassy in Washington was yet to comment on the charges.

New Delhi has rejected allegations that it was behind the June murder of Canadian Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, but Canadian authorities have stood firmly behind the claim.

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