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India may be linked to Canadian Sikh leader’s death – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau



Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered on 18 June in Surrey, British Columbia, in what police have described as a "targeted" attack (pic BBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Indian government could be behind the fatal shooting of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple on 18 June in British Columbia (BC).

Mr Trudeau said Canadian intelligence has identified a “credible” link between his death and the Indian state. He raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent G20 summit, he said. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Mr Trudeau said on Monday in the House of Commons. “It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”

India has previously denied any involvement with Mr Nijjar’s murder.

Canada also expelled an Indian diplomat, Pavan Kumar Rai, on Monday over the case, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told reporters following Mr Trudeau’s remarks.

The BBC has contacted the Indian embassy in Canada for comment.

Ms Joly said Canadian officials are limited in what they can say in public about the case due to the ongoing homicide investigation into Mr Nijjar’s death.

Investigators have previously categorised the 45-year-old’s death as a “targeted incident”. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in his vehicle by two masked gunmen on a mid-June summer evening in the busy car park of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, a city about 30km (18 miles) east of Vancouver.

He was a prominent Sikh leader in the western-most province of British Columbia and publicly campaigned for Khalistan – an independent Sikh homeland in the Punjab region of India. His supporters have said that he was a target of threats in the past because of his activism.

India has previously described him as a terrorist who led a militant separatist group – accusations his supporters call “unfounded”.

Mr Trudeau said Canada has expressed its concerns about Mr Nijjar’s death to high-level security and intelligence agencies in India. He also raised it with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “I continue to ask with a great deal of firmness that the government of India co-operate with Canada to shed light on this situation,” he said.

Mr Trudeau said that Mr Nijjar’s shooting has angered Canadians, leaving some fearful for their safety.

Some Sikh groups in Canada, including the World Sikh Organisation, welcomed the prime minister’s statement, saying Mr Trudeau confirmed what was already widely believed in the community. There are an estimated 1.4 to 1.8 million Canadians of Indian origin. The country has the largest population of Sikhs outside the state of Punjab in India.

Mr Trudeau’s remarks come after his tense meeting with Mr Modi last week during the G20 summit in India.

During that meeting, according to a statement from the Indian government, Mr Modi accused Canada of not doing enough to quell “anti-India activities of extremist elements”, referring to the Sikh separatist movement in the country.

Canada also recently suspended negotiations for a free trade agreement with India. It gave few details on why, but India cited “certain political developments”.

Mr Nijjar is the third prominent Sikh figure to have died unexpectedly in recent months.

In the UK, Avtar Singh Khanda, who was said to be the head of the Khalistan Liberation Force, died in Birmingham in June under what has been described as “mysterious circumstances”.

Paramjit Singh Panjwar, who was designated a terrorist by India, was shot dead in May in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.


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Foreign News

South Africa floods: At least 11 people die after Western Cape deluge




Rivers overflowed sweeping away parts of some major roads (pic BBC)

At least 11 people have been killed after heavy rain and winds hit South Africa’s Western Cape province, including Cape Town, over the weekend leaving a trail of destruction.

Authorities warn that the death toll may rise as the floodwater subsides.

The destructive weather flooded homes, tore off roofs, destroyed crops and damaged roads and other infrastructure. Rescue teams are still searching for people who are feared trapped in their partially submerged homes.

Eight of the 11 people who died were electrocuted in an informal settlement when waters swamped illegal connections to the power lines.

Seventy-two primary school pupils and 10 adults were trapped in a resort in the town of Oudtshoorn after the nearby Le Roux River overflowed. They were rescued on Wednesday morning, after the water had subsided. About 200 farm workers remain stranded in areas that were cut off by flooding. Efforts are being made to rescue them.

More than 80 roads were closed and at least 15,000 homes were cut off from the power grid, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said. Rail services in parts of both the Western and Eastern Cape provinces have been suspended.

The floods also badly affected the area’s farmland, including its famous vineyards, with the impact on harvests expected to be severe.

City of Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has signed a major incident declaration appealing for additional resources and relief measures to deal with the aftermath of the rainfall. The city has also closed the popular Steenbras Nature Reserve and Gorge hiking route to assess the impact of the floods.

Anton Bredell, a provincial cabinet minister in charge of environmental affairs, said that helicopters were searching for some people who had been trapped. “We expect the worst there,” he said.

The damaging rains, which ended on Monday, came a week after larger than normal spring tides hit the area. Climate change has been blamed for some recent weather-related incidents in South Africa.

In 2022, flooding in KwaZulu-Natal led to the deaths of more than 430 people, while the coastal city of Gqeberha almost ran out of water last year.


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Foreign News

Trump liable for fraud, judge finds in New York civil case




Donald Trump “repeatedly” misrepresented his wealth by hundreds of millions of dollars to banks and insurers, a New York judge has ruled.

The decision resolves the key claim made by New York’s attorney general in her civil lawsuit against the former president.

“The documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business,” the judge wrote.

It is a major blow for the former President before the case goes to trial next Monday.

An attorney for Donald Trump called the judge’s decision “a miscarriage of justice” in a statement on Tuesday evening.

Attorney General Letitia James sued Donald Trump last September, accusing him, his two adult sons and the Trump Organization of lying about his net worth and asset values between 2011 and 2021.

Ms James claimed the defendants issued false business records and financial statements in order to get better terms on bank loans and insurance deals, and to pay less tax.

In a trial that will now resolve six remaining claims in her suit, she will seek $250m in penalties and a ban on Mr Trump doing business in his home state.

The non-jury trial is scheduled to begin 2 October and last until at least December.


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Foreign News

Manhunt for gang boss who controlled luxury jail in Venezuela




The Venezuelan authorities have issued a wanted poster for the fugitive (pic BBC)

Police across South America are searching for the leader of a Venezuelan gang who escaped from the luxurious prison which he controlled, shortly before it was raided.

When 11,000 soldiers and police entered the inmate-run Tocorón jail in Venezuela on Wednesday, Héctor Guerrero Flores was nowhere to be found.

Under Guerrero Flores’s rule, Tocoron came to resemble a luxury resort. The jail boasted a small zoo, a nightclub and a swimming pool.

The 39-year-old from Aragua state in Venezuela has been in and out of Tocorón prison for more than a decade.In 2012, the leader of the Tren de Aragua transnational crime gang managed to escape from the jail by bribing the guards.After his re-arrest in 2013, he was returned to the same prison, but it appears his power inside the jail – and over those tasked with guarding him – only grew.

Not only did he turn Tocorón into the nerve centre of the Tren de Aragua criminal enterprise, but under his rule, the jail was equipped with all the trappings of a luxury hotel. Families of inmates moved into the compound. Inmates had access to a makeshift bank, a betting shop, a restaurant and a baseball diamond, while their children could marvel at flamingos and ostriches in the animal enclosure.

Guerrero Flores reportedly could come and go as he pleased. Venezuelan author Ronna Rísquez, who has written a book about the Tren de Aragua, recounts how police came across him once at a party on a yacht in 2016.

According to Rísquez, the convict calmly showed officers a safe conduct issued by Venezuela’s prison service allowing him to travel freely through the country.

Humberto Prado, the director of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory NGO, told BBC Mundo that Guerrero Flores lived “like a king” inside the jail and probably returned to it because of the security it offered.

“He had an entire floor to himself, with all the luxuries… double beds, plasma screens, sound systems. He even had his own bodyguards and no one could enter the floor without his permission.”

According to Mr Prado and others familiar with the conditions inside the prison, Guerrero Flores had no rivals inside the prison and could therefore rule safely over his ever-expanding criminal network.

The Tren de Aragua has under his leadership expanded into Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile and diversified from extorting migrants into sex-trafficking, contract killing and kidnapping.

The gang’s reach is such that the Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, referred to it directly, saying that “we are going to hunt them down, jail them, and in cases where it is necessary, expel them”.

Pressure from Latin American leaders is thought to have led to the massive security operation launched by the Venezuelan authorities last week at the Tocorón prison.

Officials said 11,000 soldiers and police were deployed to regain control of the jail from the inmates.

It was during the raid that the absence of Héctor Guerrero Flores was first noted, but Venezuelan officials did not make his escape public at the time.

It was not until Saturday, three days after the security operation, that Venezuela’s interior ministry offered a reward for information leading to the capture of Guerrero Flores.

Despite the escape of its most powerful inmate, President Nicolás Maduro said the raid had been carried out “impeccably”. He did concede that “some inmates had escaped due to the corruption of officials, who had alerted the prisoners to the impending security operation”and added that those responsible would be “severely punished”.

Meanwhile, police in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela are searching for Héctor Guerrero Flores.


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