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Kanishka victims remembered at Irish memorial service

world Updated: Jun 23, 2010 19:02 IST
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Ministers from India, Canada and Ireland on Wednesday led mourners to observe a minute's silence at an Irish memorial garden to remember the 329 people who were killed when a terrorist bomb destroyed an Air India trans Atlantic jet 25 years ago.

Minister for Corporate and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin and the Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined the relatives of the dead at the annual service held at the remote Sheep's Head peninsula on Ireland's west Cork coast over which the plane exploded, the Irish Times reported.

The ill-fated Montreal-New Delhi Air India Kanishka flight via Toronto and London exploded mid-air 45 minutes before it was to land at London's Heathrow Airport, killing all 329 people on board, most of whom were Canadians of Indian descent.

"The tragedy has forged an unbreakable bond between the people of three continents," the Irish Foreign Minister Martin said as the gathering fell into silence at 8.13 am, the exact moment when a bomb hidden in the luggage hold of the plane exploded and the Air India flight 182 disappeared from radar blips.

The bombing attack was blamed on Sikh militants avenging Operation Blue Star of 1984.

Terming the bombing as "evil and cowardly", the Irish minister said that the memorial site at Ahakista was a sacred place that represented a "rejection of the hatred and violence of terrorism".

The memorial includes a sun dial with its shadow designs to touch a precise spot every June 23 at 8.13 am, the time the plane disappeared forever.

"Time flies, suns rise, shadows fall, let it pass by, love reigns forever overall," reads the inscription on the sundial.

Only 131 bodies could be recovered, a third of them under the age of 17.

"Each year, Ireland and the community here in Ahakista gladly open their arms to welcome the families and friends of the victims after their long journey to this hallowed ground, close to where so many perished," he said.

"We are honoured by your friendship and offer whatever comfort and solace we can in your time of great sorrow. You will always be welcome here," said Martin.