LAS VEGAS — A 39-year-old man who received asylum in the U.S. from India has been arrested in Reno and accused of helping to plot terror strikes in the Punjab region of his home country on the border with Pakistan, federal officials said Wednesday.
The arrest on Tuesday of Balwinder Singh disrupted his support of two terrorist organizations, the Babbar Khalsa International and Khalistan Zindabad Force, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden and FBI Special Agent in Charge Laura Bucheit said in Reno.
The two groups aim to establish an independent Sikh state in the Khalistan region, the officials said.
“We will continue to work with our international partners to prevent acts of terrorism on U.S. soil or, as in this case, on that of an ally,” Bucheit said.
The announcement came with U.S.-India ties badly strained by the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York City on charges that she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper.
India has retaliated with measures including revoking diplomat ID cards, demanding to know the salaries paid to Indian staff in U.S. Embassy households and withholding licenses for the import of alcohol and food to the U.S. Embassy. Dozens of people protested Wednesday outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Singh was indicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Reno on charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and a total of four counts of falsifying an immigration document, immigration fraud and unlawful production of an identification document.
Singh, who officials say also uses the names Baljit Singh, Jhajj, Happy and Possi, is due for an initial court appearance Friday in federal court in Reno. He could face life in prison if he is convicted.
The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began before November 1997.
Singh is accused of seeking asylum in San Francisco using a false identity and obtaining false ID documents in the U.S. to enable him to elude Indian authorities when traveling back to his home country.
In 1999, Singh applied for and later obtained a permanent resident card in the U.S., according to the indictment.
He is accused of being a member of the two organizations, referred to as the BKI and KZF; telephoning and wiring money to co-conspirators in India for the purchase of weapons; and traveling to Pakistan, India and other countries for meetings to plan terrorist acts.
The groups allegedly engage in bombings, kidnappings and murders in India. The indictment says the U.S. State Department lists the BKI as a terrorist organization, and the European Union has designated the KZF as a terror group.
The indictment suggests that U.S. authorities were listening to conversations in January 2012 when Singh allegedly talked about delivering ammunition, and later a few days later when Singh told an unidentified man to get him some weapons or explosives.
Investigators were also apparently listening to three separate telephone conversations in May 2012, when Singh allegedly provided instructions about making an explosive device to an unidentified man.
In August 2012, Singh called a co-conspirator in India “and asked him to make arrangements for someone to deliver a threatening note containing a bullet to a lawyer,” the indictment said.
Bucheit credited the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Northern Nevada with investigating the case.