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NIA raids in 53 places as part of terror-gangster crackdown

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Sep 28, 2023 08:58 AM IST

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids at 53 locations in five states and two Union territories, targeting a nexus of terrorists and drug smugglers with alleged links to Canada-based gangsters. The agency seized weapons, digital devices, and incriminating material. The raids are part of a crackdown on pro-Khalistan elements amid a diplomatic standoff with Canada. The NIA is investigating cases related to targeted killings, terror funding, extortion, and smuggling. Many criminals who were leading gangs in India have fled abroad and are now involved in planning serious crimes from foreign bases.

New Delhi The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday raided 53 locations across five states and two Union territories as part of a massive multistate crackdown on what the agency called a nexus of terrorists and drug smugglers with alleged links to Canada-based gangsters.

NIA team conducts a raid at the house of gun-house owner Parikshit Negi, in Dehradun on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (Virender Singh Negi)
NIA team conducts a raid at the house of gun-house owner Parikshit Negi, in Dehradun on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (Virender Singh Negi)

The raids were aimed at nabbing alleged associates of Arshdeep Singh alias Arsh Dalla, a listed terrorist Sukhdool Singh aka Sukha Duneke, a member of a Moga-based gang who was killed in a gang war last week in Canada, and other gangsters such as Lawrence Bishnoi.

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A statement by the federal agency said NIA officials began searches across 53 locations in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Chandigarh early on Wednesday and seized pistols, ammunition, a large numbers of digital devices and incriminating material.

The searches were the seventh in a series of similar crackdowns by the agency in connection with five cases registered since August last year. “The cases relate to conspiracies of targeted killings, terror funding of pro-Khalistan outfits, extortion by the gangsters, many of whom are lodged in various jails or are operating from various foreign countries, including Pakistan, Canada, Malaysia, Portugal and Australia, etc,” the agency said in its statement.

Besides Dalla, Bishnoi and Singh, Harry Maur, Narender Lali, Kala Jatheri and Deepak Tinu were also raided, NIA said.

“The crackdown was aimed at dismantling the terror-gangster-drug smuggler nexus, weapon suppliers, financiers and logistics providers associated with various hardcore gangs and their operatives. These gangs are working with drug smugglers and terrorists based out of other countries, including Pakistan, UAE, Canada, Portugal etc,” the agency said in its statement.

The raids appeared to be part of a wider crackdown by Indian agencies against terrorists and criminals with links to pro-Khalistan elements amid a diplomatic standoff with Canada over the killing of a Khalistani leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

New Delhi has repeatedly sought to highlight the overlap of extortion, and drug and weapons running networks in Canada managed by emigres from Punjab or those of Punjabi origin in the country, with the radical Khalistan movement. The movement itself is all but dead in India.

Duneke -- who was killed in Winnipeg after unidentified gunmen pumped 15 bullets into him -- was associated with the Davinder Bambiha gang, which operated in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan but was currently working with Arshdeep Singh alias Arsh Dala, a Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) leader in Canada who has been declared an “individual terrorist” by Indian government.

Duneke is wanted in at least 18 cases related to extortion, murder, kidnapping, arms act and was also involved in managing finances of the gang. In March last year, he had also orchestrated the murder of Kabbadi player Sandeep Singh Nangal during a match in Jalandhar.

Many criminals who were earlier leading gangs in India have fled abroad in recent years and are now peddling terror from foreign bases, NIA said. “These criminals have been engaged in planning and commissioning serious crimes, including contract and revenge killings, in association with criminals lodged in jails across India. These groups have been carrying out targeted killings and raising funds for attacks and other nefarious activities through smuggling of drugs and weapons, hawala and extortions,” it added.

Among the areas raided were Amritsar, Moga, Fazilka, Ludhiana, Mohali, Faridkot, Barnala, Bhatinda, Ferozpur, SAS Nagar, Amritsar, and Jalandhar in Punjab; Rohtak, Sirsa, Fatehabad and Faridabad in Haryana; Sri Ganga Nagar, Jhunjhunu, Hanumangarh and Jodhpur districts of Rajasthan; Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh; Dehradun and Udhamsingh Nagar districts of Uttarakhand; the south-east district of Delhi, and Chandigarh.

The agency is investigating a raft of cases linked to pro-Khalistan extremists. This includes the March 19 attempt to vandalise the Indian high commission in London and pull down the Tricolour during protests against police action on radical preacher Amritpal Singh.

NIA is also probing Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana’s role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. NIA said that it is ready to initiate proceedings to bring him to India through diplomatic channels.

The federal agency has also filed a charge sheet against gangsters Satinder Singh alias Goldy Brar and Bishnoi, who allegedly conspired to assassinate Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala on May 29 last year, and 12 others in connection with its probe into a nexus of gangsters based in north India, Pakistan-backed Khalistani terror groups, and drugs and arms smugglers.

Brar, against whom Interpol has issued a red notice, is hiding in Canada, while Bishnoi is in a prison in Punjab. The NIA probe has revealed they are linked with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and several other pro-Khalistan groups.

The agency said it froze 87 bank accounts and attached 13 properties, in addition to seizing 331 digital devices, 418 documents and two vehicles from suspects. It also confiscated two properties banned outfit Sikhs for Justice’s chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannu in Amritsar and Chandigarh.At least 15 people have been declared proclaimed offenders and red notices have been issued against nine others, the agency’s statement said.

As first reported by HT on Sunday, NIA’s probe into the financial activities of Canada-based top Khalistani leaders and gangsters has revealed that money generated in India through extortion and smuggling is not only used for funding violent activities, both in India and Canada, but also invested in yachts, movies and even the Canadian Premier League. The money is also funnelled into clubs and bars in Thailand, the federal agency said.

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