Advocate for Sikh nation killed in targeted shooting in Canada

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A campaigner for a Sikh nation to be carved out of India’s Punjab state who was wanted by Indian authorities was shot dead in Canada, police and local media said Monday.

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Federal police said in a statement that a man was found in his pickup truck in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, British Columbia, around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, “suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.”

“The man died of his injuries at the scene,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police added.

Police did not identify the victim, but local media and the World Sikh Organization of Canada said he was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the temple’s president who advocated for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan.

Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism offenses and conspiracy to commit murder, which he reportedly denied to Canadian media.

He had been warned by Canada’s spy agency about threats against him, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, which said that he was “assassinated in a targeted shooting.”

It pointed to the killings or suspicious deaths of other prominent Khalistan activists in recent months: Avtar Singh Khanda, in Britain, and Paramjit Singh Panjwar, in Pakistan.

India’s Punjab state -- which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu -- was rocked by a violent Khalistan separatist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, in which thousands of people died.

Today, the separatist movement’s most vocal advocates are primarily among the Punjabi diaspora.

India has often complained to foreign governments, including Ottawa, about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency.

In March, Indian authorities summoned Canada’s top diplomat in New Delhi after Sikh protesters gathered outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.

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