FBI Director William H. Webster said today that the bureau has foiled a plot by Indian Sikh terrorists to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during his visit to the United States next month.
Webster said the alleged plot included plans to assassinate Bhajan Lal, chief minister of the Indian state of Haryana, while he was visiting this country earlier this month.
Webster said in a statement that an investigation of a group of Sikh terrorists resulted in seven individuals being charged with a variety of offenses, including conspiracy to possess and receive explosives, conspiracy to possess and receive a machine gun not registered to them, and conspiracy to assassinate a foreign official.
Gandhi’s mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by Sikh members of her personal bodyguard last year.
Webster said the FBI “successfully penetrated a plan to develop a program to train a group of Sikhs in the use of firearms and explosives. This group was planning to engage in unlawful activities directed against the government of India.”
He said the investigation was handled by FBI field offices in Birmingham, Ala.; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans, and New York.
The FBI said that last Thursday, a federal grand jury in the eastern district of Louisiana returned an indictment charging that the conspirators planned to assassinate Lal while he was in the United States for medical treatment at the Louisiana State University Eye Center.
On May 4, the bureau said, the New Orleans Police Department arrested four people in the area of Lal’s hotel. They were identified as Virinder Singh, Gurpartap Singh Birk, Jasbir Sandhu and Sukhwinder Singh. (The name Singh has a Sikh religious connotation and does not indicate family relationship.)
The bureau said federal charges were later lodged against the four charging conspiracy to commit murder.
Also indicted in New Orleans, it said, was a fifth person identified as Jatinder Singh Ahluwalia, who the FBI said was arrested by agents in New Orleans on Sunday.
The other two suspects charged in connection with the investigation, the bureau said, were Lal Singh and Ammand Singh. The FBI said they are charged in the eastern district of New York “and are currently being sought by the FBI in the New York area.”
The FBI announcement gave no further details on the nature of the alleged plan to assassinate Gandhi, who accepted an invitation earlier this year to meet with President Reagan at the White House June 12.
There was no immediate indication of any change in Gandhi’s travel plans.