Washington, Nov 22 (IANS): US authorities have thwarted a conspiracy to assassinate a Sikh separatist on American soil and issued a warning to India over concerns that it was involved in the plot, according to multiple people familiar with the case, a media report said.
The target of the plot was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an American and Canadian citizen who is the general counsel for Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based group that is part of a movement pushing for an independent Sikh state called “Khalistan”, Financial Times reported.
People familiar with the case, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence that prompted the warning, did not say whether the protest to New Delhi led the plotters to abandon their plan, or whether the FBI intervened and foiled a scheme already in motion, Financial Times reported.
The US informed some allies about the plot following the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh separatist killed in Vancouver in June. In September, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said there were “credible allegations” linking New Delhi to Nijjar’s fatal shooting.
One person familiar with the situation said the US protest was issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a high-profile state visit to Washington in June. Separate from the diplomatic warning, US federal prosecutors have filed a sealed indictment against at least one alleged perpetrator of the plot in a New York district court, according to people familiar with the case, Financial Times reported.
The US justice department is debating whether to unseal the indictment and make the allegations public or wait until Canada finishes its investigation into Nijjar’s murder.
Further complicating the case, one person charged in the indictment is believed to have left the US, according to people familiar with the proceedings.
The US justice department and FBI declined to comment on the matter.
The National Security Council said the US does “not comment on ongoing law enforcement matters or private diplomatic discussions with our partners” but added: “Upholding the safety and security of US citizens is paramount," Financial Times reported.
Washington shared details of the Pannun case with a wider group of allies after Trudeau went public with details of the Vancouver killing, the combination of which sparked concern among allies about a possible pattern of behaviour.