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US charges Indian citizen in alleged Sikh assassination plot

GreenWatch Desk World News 2023-11-30, 10:13am

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The US Justice Department announced charges on Wednesday against an Indian national for orchestrating an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on US soil. The suspect is accused of acting on behalf of an Indian government official.

The announcement comes just weeks after Canada linked the Indian government to the assassination of a Sikh activist on its soil, prompting a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said the Indian government employee linked to the plot held responsibilities such as security and intelligence. Prosecutors did not name the Indian official or the target of the assassination plot.

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

Suspect arrested in Czech Republic
The Indian government official is said to have directed the assassination plot from India, working with the suspect charged by US authorities and others based around the world, the US government said.

Prosecutors allege that the suspect, named Nikhil G., reached out to someone he believed was a criminal associate to help hire a hitman for the assassination. But the associate he reached out to was an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

The 52-year-old Nikhil G. was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition to the US.

He faces two counts of murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

India says it 'launched inquiry'
An Indian government spokesperson said in a statement that the US had "shared some inputs pertaining to nexus between organized criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others."

"We had also indicated that India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on our national security interests," the statement said, adding that a "high-level Enquiry Committee" was established on November 18 "to look into all the relevant aspects of the matter."

Recently, the Biden administration has sought to build closer ties with India to counter an ascendant China, which both countries perceive as a threat.

The Indian government has long decried the presence of Sikh separatist groups outside India in both Canada and the US, which it sees as responsible for keeping the movement for an independent Sikh state alive, reports DW.

India considers this movement a threat to its own security.