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Surveillance footage shows fatal ambush of Hardeep Singh Nijjar last June, which Ottawa has blamed on India, was over in less than two minutes

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Almost nine months ago, the Guru Nanak Sikh gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., was a crime scene when armed men killed Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

The ambush began in a parking lot of a Surrey, B.C., temple with a barrage of bullets, after which the two gunmen fled down a side street on foot.

The brazen slaying last June of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar – a killing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly blamed on the Indian government – was over in less than two minutes and was caught on surveillance video.

The Globe and Mail has viewed the surveillance footage from the evening of June 18 at the Guru Nanak Sikh gurdwara – including the 75 seconds up to and including the shooting that left Mr. Nijjar dead sometime after 8 p.m. Police said later they received a 911 call about the shooting at 8:27 p.m.

June 18 is one of the longest days of the year, with a late sunset, so there is still enough light for the camera to document what took place. The surveillance camera captures a wide-angle view of the parking lot. Mr. Nijjar is seen backing out of his parking space in a dark-coloured pickup truck – he drove a grey Dodge Ram – and begins to make his way to the eastern exit of the lot, which is at the top left of the surveillance video screen.

The gaze of anyone watching the video is immediately drawn to a white vehicle in a parking-lot lane adjacent to Mr. Nijjar’s. It appears to be keeping pace with Mr. Nijjar’s vehicle as they both drive east in parallel lanes toward an eastern exit of the lot, which fronts Surrey’s 122nd Street.

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These are images police released on Aug. 18 of a suspect vehicle in the Nijjar killing. Surveillance footage from June 18 offers a clearer picture of the car's movements.Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

Community members refer to the white vehicle as the “blocker car” for reasons that will soon become apparent.

The white sedan reaches the parking lot exit first. That’s because Mr. Nijjar’s vehicle is one lane over and in order to reach the same exit must turn and merge into the same corridor that the white vehicle has already traversed.

After reaching the exit, the white sedan pauses instead of immediately turning onto 122nd Street. It remains stationary, blocking Mr. Nijjar’s vehicle from leaving the lot. As Mr. Nijjar’s pickup idles behind the white vehicle, two figures emerge from a structure on the left of the screen. They advance on the pickup and fire their guns, a barrage that lasts roughly 12 seconds.

After the shooting, the white “blocker car” turns onto 122nd Street and disappears.

Community members note this eastern exit wasn’t the only route out of the temple’s parking lot. They speculate that Mr. Nijjar’s assassins must have watched him ahead of time to predict his behaviour and construct a plan based on him using that exit.

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This view of the gurdwara's environs on Monday offers a similar wide-angle perspective as in the surveillance footage seen by The Globe.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

Bhupinderjit Singh, a member and volunteer at the gurdwara, was playing soccer in Kabbadi Park next door with more than 20 others when he heard the shots. Mr. Singh, who said he was a close friend of Mr. Nijjar, thought at first he was hearing exploding firecrackers.

After the cacophony ended, two men wearing masks ran past the soccer players, heading south on the sidewalk of 122nd Street. Bhupinderjit’s friend Malkeet Singh ran after them.

Bhupinderjit rushed toward the source of the noise and came across Mr. Nijjar’s pickup.

“I opened the door and I tried to shake him with my hand to see if he was okay – but he was not breathing at all,” he said. “I could tell he was dead.”

He said there was broken glass and shattered mirrors scattered at the scene and Mr. Nijjar’s body was shot many times, mostly on his left side.

The Washington Post, which has also viewed the video, reported this past September that investigators told members of the Sikh community that the assailants fired about 50 bullets and of those, 34 hit Mr. Nijjar.

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Tributes to Mr. Nijjar are still on display at the spot near where he was killed almost nine months earlier.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

Malkeet, who is a board member at the gurdwara, was playing soccer goalkeeper when he heard the shots. He said he was quite tired that evening, having come right from work and was playing barefoot.

Speaking through a translator, Malkeet said he and a couple of other men quickly decided to pursue the runners. When the two men saw they were being pursued, he said, they became more anxious and kept looking back.

He said one of the runners was heavy-set while the other was slim. They wore black masks and black hoodies. Malkeet said the pair appeared to be wearing blue nitrile medical gloves and kept their hands in their hoodie pockets while running, as if they were hiding their guns. He said the heavy-set suspect encountered difficulty running: He would run, stop and then resume running as he made his escape.

The suspects cut through Cougar Creek Park and at one point, one of the men took out his gun and waved it at the pursuers, Malkeet said, as if to frighten them off. He said it was a handgun and it made the men running after the suspects pause and step back.

The two suspects exited Cougar Creek Park through a southwestern path and got into a silver car waiting for them at 121st Street. The car already contained three people inside: a driver and two passengers, Malkeet said. Police later identified the car as a silver 2008 Toyota Camry.

Malkeet said when pursuers finally reached the 121st Street cul-de-sac after the getaway car had left, they encountered a strong odour of gunpowder.

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The gurdwara's security cameras recorded a visitor 10 days before the killing that one volunteer now says resembled the heavy-set man in the shooting footage.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

Bhupinderjit said the heavy-set man reminded him of a visitor to the Sikh temple ten days earlier who was captured on the temple’s surveillance cameras: a stranger wearing a mask and carrying a tablet computer who showed up and “was roaming here and there.” The man sat for the communal meals offered by the temple but didn’t eat anything and walked away a few minutes later.

He said he believes Mr. Nijjar was targeted because of his role with the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice, helping to organize an unofficial referendum on creating an independent Sikh state in India that would be called Khalistan. Voting in B.C.’s Lower Mainland was set for later that year, one of a series of votes in cities around the world.

“He was the main face for the voting that was scheduled to happen,” Bhupinderjit said.

The RCMP said this week its investigation continues but gave no indication when charges would be laid.

“The RCMP does not comment on potential or ongoing investigations here in Canada, or in other countries,” RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said.

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A bulletin board outside the gurdwara includes a poster calling for an investigation into the Nijjar killing. Canadian Sikh organizations have demanded a more thorough response from the RCMP.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

Almost nine months after the shooting took place, the World Sikh Organization of Canada is expressing concern about the delay in making arrests and urged the RCMP to focus all its resources into the investigation.

“While we remain critical of the security measures taken to protect Hardeep Singh Nijjar, we understand the importance of thorough investigations for successful prosecutions,” spokesperson Balpreet Singh told The Globe.

The day after Mr. Nijjar was killed, the organization said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and law enforcement agencies were aware that he was a target for his activism.

“As long as there are ongoing efforts to address threats against Canadian Sikhs, a delay in arrests, if necessary to gather evidence and build a strong case, is preferable to a rushed arrest that could jeopardize a successful prosecution and conviction,” Mr. Singh said.

But he added: “The clock is ticking, however, and at some point justice delayed will be justice denied; so we urge law enforcement to prioritize this case and ensure that justice is served in a timely manner.”

On Dec. 27, The Globe reported, citing government sources, that the two men who investigators believe fatally shot Mr. Nijjar were under police surveillance and expected to be arrested by the RCMP in a matter of weeks.

A senior federal source said the Trudeau government is frustrated that no arrests have been made.

In September, Mr. Trudeau accused the government of India of being behind the shooting of Mr. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen – an allegation strongly denied by the Indian government.

New Delhi had accused Mr. Nijjar of being a terrorist during his campaign for an independent Sikh state. A 2020 statement by the Indian government alleged he was “actively involved in operationalising, networking, training and financing” members of the militant group Khalistan Tiger Force.

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Yellow flags outside the gurdwara promote Khalistan, a proposed Sikh state that Mr. Nijjar wanted to see created. India characterizes his work as terrorism.Ethan Cairns/The Globe and Mail

Three sources told The Globe that the suspected killers never left Canada after Mr. Nijjar’s slaying and have been under police surveillance for months. The RCMP told the government that they want to make sure the case will not fall apart at trial before arrests are made, one of the sources said.

The sources said police will explain the alleged assassins’ involvement and that of the Indian government when charges are laid against the two men. The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to discuss national-security and police matters.

Before she retired from the Prime Minister’s Office in late January, national-security adviser Jody Thomas told CTV News that India is now co-operating with Canada on the murder investigation and bilateral ties are improving.

However, Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma said recently that Canada has not shared credible evidence to show Indian agents were behind the slaying.

Mr. Trudeau has said that Canadian intelligence had identified “credible allegations” of a link between Mr. Nijjar’s death and agents of the Indian state. He made the announcement in the House of Commons on Sept. 18, after the Prime Minister’s Office learned that The Globe planned to publish a story based on national-security sources that revealed Canada believed India was behind the slaying. The Globe story was published shortly before Mr. Trudeau rose in the Commons.

Mr. Trudeau had already raised the allegations with his Indian counterpart at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September. CSIS Director David Vigneault and Ms. Thomas also travelled to India to present the findings, government officials have told The Globe.

The accusation had an immediate impact on Indo-Canadian relations. Ottawa shelved free-trade talks and a business trade mission to India, while New Delhi stripped 41 Canadian diplomats of their diplomatic protections in the South Asian country.

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Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, denounced at this Hindu protest in New Delhi last fall, is a Sikh activist that U.S. authorities say was the target of an assassination plot.ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

Canada’s allegations were buttressed after U.S. authorities announced in November that they had foiled a plan to kill a Canadian-American Sikh activist in New York and uncovered apparent links to the slaying of Mr. Nijjar and threats to three other unidentified Canadian Sikhs.

A criminal indictment unsealed in New York said that Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national who was arrested in the Czech Republic in June, allegedly arranged the murder for hire of the U.S.-based Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for the New York-based Sikhs for Justice.

Mr. Gupta allegedly told an undercover officer less than two weeks before Mr. Nijjar’s death that there was a “big target” in Canada. Mr. Gupta was allegedly recruited by an Indian government employee to “orchestrate the assassination” of Mr. Pannun. The Indian agent described himself as a “senior field officer” who previously served in the country’s Central Reserve Police Force, the indictment said, “and had responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence.”

The Indian agent agreed to pay US$100,000 to a purported hitman, who was an undercover law-enforcement officer, to kill Mr. Pannun in a deal brokered by Mr. Gupta, U.S. prosecutors allege.

A few days before Mr. Nijjar’s death in June, Mr. Gupta told the undercover officer – whom he thought was a criminal – that “we will be needing one good team in Canada” to carry out another assassination, according to the indictment. He also allegedly told the police officer that the plotters in India would be directing slayings in both countries.

Mr. Gupta allegedly later told the undercover officer that Mr. Nijjar was No. 4 or No. 3 among assassination targets in Canada and the United States.

Mr. Gupta has been charged with murder for hire as well as conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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