The Hit Squad

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An Indian national accused of involvement in a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the US appeared before a New York court Monday, in a case that has the Indian government being accused by Western Allies of ordering the assassination of Sikh separatist figures abroad, NBC News reported.

Over the weekend, authorities in the Czech Republic extradited Nikhil Gupta to the United States to stand trial. Czech authorities arrested Gupta last year following a request by the US Justice Department.

US officials alleged that Gupta is an associate of an Indian government “senior field officer” and that together they worked to organize the murder of Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is also an American citizen. The plot was thwarted by US authorities.

Pannun is a critic of the Indian government and authorities there have labeled him a terrorist. He has advocated for an independent region in India for its Sikh population.

Prosecutors said that Gupta, claiming to be a drug and weapons trafficker, unknowingly contacted an undercover officer of the US Drug Enforcement Agency posing as a hitman. In June 2023, Gupta offered $100,000 in a murder-for-hire scheme and provided surveillance photos.

It was around the same time as another incident in Canada in which an unknown gunman murdered another Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in the province of British Columbia. Gupta later bragged to the officer that Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets.”

The extradition is the latest development in a year-long scandal in India: Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of being involved in Nijjar’s murder, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries.

The Indian government has vehemently rejected the allegations as “absurd” and has launched its own investigation into the matter, the Hindu noted.

Gupta has also denied the accusations and claimed he was “unfairly charged.”

He currently faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, both of which carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

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