Canada’s prime minister has said Canadian security agencies are investigating “credible allegations of a potential link” between Indian government agents and the killing of a prominent Sikh-Canadian activist earlier this year.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday afternoon, Justin Trudeau said he personally conveyed “deep concerns” to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was fatally shot on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a city in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia, spurring widespread questions and condemnation.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said on Monday.
“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
The High Commission of India in the Canadian capital Ottawa did not immediately return Al Jazeera’s request for comment on the allegations.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said later on Monday that the government had expelled an Indian diplomat – the head of India’s external intelligence agency, known as RAW, in Canada – over the allegations.
She did not provide additional details, such as the official’s name or when the expulsion took place.
“We see this possible breach of sovereignty as completely unacceptable, and so that is also why we’re coming [out] with this information today,” Joly told reporters during a brief news conference.
The Globe and Mail newspaper first reported that Canadian national security authorities have “what they consider credible intelligence that India was behind” the killing of Nijjar.
Sources that spoke to the Canadian news outlet did not say how they made that determination.
“The Canadian government has privately ruled out severing diplomatic relations with New Delhi but is considering measures to respond to what it considers a serious violation of Canadian sovereignty,” the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.
Monday’s accusations come amid already strained relations between Ottawa and New Delhi, which have been tested over a range of issues including a stalled trade deal and Sikh activism in Canada more broadly.
Modi, the Indian prime minister, expressed “strong concerns” about Sikh protests in Canada during his talks with Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20, the Indian government said in a statement after the discussions.
“They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” the statement said.
According to the Globe and Mail and other media reports, Nijjar was designated as a “terrorist” by the Indian authorities.
“India’s counter-terrorism National Investigation Agency (NIA) has alleged he conspired to kill a Hindu priest in Punjab and in 2022 it announced a reward equivalent to $16,200 for information leading to his arrest,” the Canadian newspaper said on Monday.
The activist was also involved with a group called “Sikhs for Justice”, CBC News has reported. The organisation pushes for an independent Sikh state in India, a call the Indian authorities have rejected outright.
Canadian lawmakers from across the political spectrum were quick to denounce India on Monday for its potential role in the activist’s killing.
Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, said in the House of Commons that if if the allegations are true, they would represent an “outrageous affront” to Canadian sovereignty.
“Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil,” Poilievre said. “We call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder because the truth must come out.”
Canadian authorities continue to investigate Nijjar’s killing, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) saying last month that they had identified a vehicle believed to have been involved in the incident. Authorities say they are looking for three suspects.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP), who is of Sikh descent, said it was important for Canada to use “every tool” available to investigate the killing.
“We need to know the truth. We need to know all potential links, and anyone and everyone responsible should be brought to justice using the full power of a democratic nation,” Singh said.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku burned on face, arm in home accident while lighting fire pit
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku suffered burns to his face and arm in an accident at home while lighting a fire pit.
Njoku was added to the injury report on Saturday and listed as questionable for Sunday’s home game against the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s not immediately known when the accident took place or the severity of Njoku’s injuries. However, his agent Malki Kawa, posted on social media that the 27-year-old tight end “is OK.” Kawa thanked “everyone for reaching out.”
Njoku, who is in his seventh season with Cleveland, has 10 catches for 92 yards this season. He’s a solid blocker and coach Kevin Stefanski noted that Njoku has been a major contributor on several big plays through three games.
Njoku’s injury further complicates things for the Browns (2-1), who could be without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson against the Ravens. Watson was limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury and is also questionable.
If Watson can’t play, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick from UCLA, will make his first NFL start. Thompson-Robinson, who had a strong training camp and preseason, took the majority of snaps with Cleveland’s starting offense this week.
The Browns elevated tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden from the practice squad in case Njoku is inactive.
Quarterback P.J. Walker was also brought up from the practice squad as insurance for Watson’s situation.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Russian Paralympians cannot use flag at Paris games
Russian athletes competing at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris will not be allowed to use their nation’s flag.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) voted Friday on the eligibility of Russian athletes, allowing individuals to compete under neutral banners.
Russia has been banned from the Olympic and Paralympic communities since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The specific parameters for athletes from Russian ally Belarus are also yet to be decided.
RUSSIA, BELARUS NOT OFFICIALLY INVITED TO 2024 PARIS OLYMPICS, IOC SAYS
The IPC voted Friday not to fully ban Belorussian athletes but has not yet decided if they can compete representing their country.
The Russian Olympic Committee is not boycotting the Paris games and has voiced support for athletes wishing to compete as neutral individuals.
INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE OVERTURNS SUSPENSION OF RUSSIA, BELARUS MEMBERSHIPS, ATHLETES STILL BARRED
“Boycotting the Games leads to nowhere,” said Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov, according to The Moscow Times.
He added, “We live together in a free state. Every person can, if they so wish, take the path.”
International bodies have struggled to accommodate Russian and Belorussian athletes’ participation in the games since their ban was imposed.
In anticipation of the Olympic and Paralympic games, the Ukrainian government loosened restrictions on participating in sporting events with Russian athletes.
In a July decision, the Ukrainian government said it would be narrowing the focus of its ban on sports matches against Russian competitors.
Moving forward, Ukrainian athletes will be allowed to compete against Russian athletes not representing their home country.
More than 80 percent of ethnic Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh
An ethnic Armenian exodus has nearly emptied Nagorno-Karabakh of residents since Azerbaijan attacked and ordered the breakaway region’s fighter groups to disarm, the Armenian government has said.
Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, said on Saturday that 100,417 people had arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, which had a population of approximately 120,000 before Azerbaijan reclaimed the region in a lightning offensive last week.
A total of 21,043 vehicles have crossed the Hakari Bridge, which links Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, since last week, Baghdasaryan said. Some lined up for days because the winding mountain road that is the only route to Armenia became jammed.
“The speed of it has caught everyone, including the Armenian authorities and the UN by surprise,” said Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith.
The departure of more than 80 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population raises questions about Azerbaijan’s plans for the enclave that was internationally recognised as part of its territory.
“[In Nagorno-Karabakh] we’re seeing scenes of eerie silence, empty streets, empty shops, and vacant homes,” said Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from Horadiz. “Just a fraction of the population remains in this enclave where people have been assured that they will not be persecuted by Azerbaijani forces as they take control of these areas.”
The region’s separatist ethnic Armenian government said Thursday it would dissolve itself by the end of the year after a three-decade bid for independence.
Pashinyan has alleged the ethnic Armenian exodus amounted to “a direct act of an ethnic cleansing and depriving people of their motherland”.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly rejected the characterisation, saying the mass migration by the region’s residents was “their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation”.
However, Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC chief prosecutor, told Al Jazeera that it is “obvious” what is happening is ethnic cleansing, saying that “the legal description is called genocide.”
“It’s an excuse that the Azerbaijan government saying, ‘oh, [leaving] was voluntary’ after they were bombing them and were starving them to death for months,” Ocampo said.
During three decades of conflict in the region, Azerbaijan and the separatists backed by Armenia have accused each other of targeted attacks, massacres and other atrocities, leaving people on both sides deeply suspicious and fearful.
While Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, most are fleeing because they do not trust Azerbaijani authorities to treat them humanely or guarantee their language, religion and culture.
“None of the people we’ve spoken to have confidence in the Azerbaijan government’s claim that their security would be guaranteed if they decided to stay,” said Smith, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Yerevan.
“They’re frightened because they fear, despite Azerbaijan’s assurances, they fear they will be treated as the losers and the Azerbaijanis will come in as the victors,” he said.
The office of Italy’s prime minister said on Saturday that Armenia has asked the European Union for assistance to help it deal with refugees arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Years of fighting
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence said later on Saturday that one of its servicemen was killed by sniper fire from Armenian forces in the border district of Kalbajar, but the alleged incident was swiftly refuted by Armenia.
Interfax news agency cited the Armenian Ministry of Defence as saying the report was incorrect, without giving further details.
After six years of separatist fighting ended in 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. Then, during a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of the region in the South Caucasus Mountains along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed earlier.
In December, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, accusing the Armenian government of using it for illicit weapons shipments to the region’s separatist forces.
Weakened by the blockade and with Armenia’s leadership distancing itself from the conflict, ethnic Armenian forces in the region agreed to lay down arms less than 24 hours after Azerbaijan began its offensive. Talks have begun between officials in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities on “reintegrating” the region into Azerbaijan.
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