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Police tight-lipped as B.C. Sikh leader's slaying flares international tensions

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Homicide investigators have been tight-lipped since Canada's prime minister revealed there are "credible allegations" the Indian government was involved in B.C. Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar's slaying – but said the case remains a priority for local law enforcement.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said members have been working with provincial and federal law enforcement agencies to solve Nijjar's murder, but could not provide any further details in light of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bombshell remarks in the House of Commons Monday.

"Investigators continue to gather information and evidence, however we are not in position to discuss specifics," IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Timothy Pierotti said in a statement.

Nijjar was the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, and was gunned down in the parking lot on the evening of June 18.

Authorities released surveillance images of a silver 2008 Toyota Camry, which three suspects apparently used to flee the scene, but have provided few other investigative details with the public.

Months after the killing, Trudeau revealed intelligence agencies suspect "agents of the government of India" were involved in Nijjar's death – something Prime Minister Narendra Modi's officials have adamantly denied.

In a statement, India's Ministry of External Affairs described the allegations as "absurd and motivated."

"Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," the ministry added.

In response to the allegations, Canadian officials expelled a diplomat from India's foreign intelligence agency – a move that also prompted reciprocation from India on Tuesday.

For some leaders in the Sikh community, Trudeau's remarks were received as an overdue acknowledgment of concerns they had been raising for decades about Indian interference in Canadian affairs.

They have called for a vigorous investigation of Nijjar's killing, a public inquiry into India's potential role, and government protection for leaders in the Khalistan movement, which advocates for an independent homeland for Sikhs in India's Punjab region.

The World Sikh Organization issued a statement Monday warning that "several other Canadian Sikhs are understood to be under threat by India."

Calls for swift accountability were echoed by a number of B.C. politicians, including Premier David Eby, who said he received a briefing Monday from the Canadian Security Intelligence Services on the allegations of Indian involvement.

"I am deeply disturbed and angered by this information. Canadians across the country must be safe from the interference of foreign governments, including being targeted for threats or physical harm, including murder," Eby wrote in a statement.

"I join with those in the Sikh and Punjabi community, and the broader province, demanding justice and answers. Our government will fully and enthusiastically support any federal efforts to ensure those responsible are held personally accountable."

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke issued a brief statement Monday night expressing confidence in law enforcement to "ensure that the integrity of Canadian democracy and the safety of our citizens are protected."

With files from CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello

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