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30 years on, Kanishka bombing a ‘national priority’ for Canada investigators

world Updated: Jun 22, 2016 21:52 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Kanishka bombing

A woman touches the name of a family member on the memorial for the victims of Air India Flight 182 on the Toronto waterfront. (Reuters File Photo)

Three decades after Khalistani terrorists blew up Air India’s flight 182, killing 329 passengers, Canadian investigators have said they continue to treat the case as a priority.

“The British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continues to investigate with the objective of pursuing charges of any individuals involved in the bombings. This investigation is a national priority for the RCMP,” spokesperson Staff Sergeant Rob Vermuelen said in an email.

A probe team is in touch with members of families of the victims of the attack, one of the worst aviation-related terrorism incidents in the world and second only to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

Susheel Gupta, whose mother Ramwati was killed when the airliner named Kanishka exploded, said, “The RCMP has kept us (families) updated on their investigation. Ultimately, we do hope that the rest of the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”

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However, given the passage of time, some doubt the ongoing investigation can make up for the botched inquiry following the June 23, 1985 tragedy. The two principal accused in the case, Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, were acquitted of the charges they faced by a court in British Columbia in March 2005.

The only person ever convicted in the case was Inderjit Singh Reyat, on charges of perjury. Reyat was released on parole in January.

Retired Canadian Supreme Court justice John Major, who headed an inquiry commission into the case, wrote in his June 2010 report, “This remains the largest mass murder in Canadian history, and was the result of a cascading series of errors.”

The report pointed out the tragedy could have been averted but for multiple mistakes.

Read | Canadian justice system did scant justice to victims of Kanishka bombing

For instance, while the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had a surveillance team present when plotters “detonated a device in the woods near Duncan, causing a loud explosive sound, the sound was misinterpreted and the surveillance report was ignored”.

In addition, the report said the RCMP “did not forward to the intelligence service a June 1 Telex that set out Air India’s own intelligence, forecasting a June terrorist attempt to bomb an Air India flight by means of explosives hidden in checked baggage”.

Read | 30 years after Kanishka bombing, the tragedy still haunts kin