Monday 18 December 2017

Police errors led to Air India bomb attack

Charmaine Noronha in Toronto

A CANADIAN inquiry bluntly stated yesterday that police should have known an Air India flight in 1985 was a terrorist target.

The bombing of Air India Flight 182 killed 329 people in one of the world's deadliest terrorist strikes. It is the largest case of mass murder in Canadian history. The aircraft exploded off Cork on June 23, 1985 and the bodies were brought ashore in Ireland. Yesterday, former Supreme Court Justice John Major said a cascading series of errors contributed to the failure of Canada's police and security forces to prevent the atrocity.

"The level of error, incompetence, and inattention which took place before the flight was sadly mirrored in many ways for many years, in how authorities, governments and institutions dealt with the aftermath of the murder of so many innocents," Mr Major said in a massive, five-volume report.

The Air India flight from Montreal to London, originating in Vancouver, exploded and crashed off Ireland on June 23, 1985. An hour earlier, a bomb in baggage intended for another Air India flight exploded in the Tokyo airport, killing two baggage handlers.

The attacks were blamed on Sikh militants who, prosecutors said, sought revenge for a deadly 1984 raid by Indian forces on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site of their religion.

About 800 Sikhs, including militants taking refuge in the temple, lost their lives. Before the bombings, Canadian intelligence officials had apparently learned of the plot by Sikh separatists in Canada and India to launch a terror attack.

"There were individuals in the Sikh community who claimed to have knowledge about the bombing and its perpetrators," said Mr Major.

"The agencies failed to obtain that information, to preserve for its use as evidence or to offer adequate protection to those individuals. Instead they engaged in turf wars," Mr Major added. Inderit Singh Reyat, who was convicted of manslaughter in the bombings, remains the only suspect ever convicted of a role in the attacks. Two other accused were brought to trial but never convicted.

Irish Independent

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