Relatives of Air India victims gather for ceremony

RELATIVES of some of the 329 people killed during one of the world’s deadliest terrorist attacks will gather in west Cork this week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Air India disaster.

Joined by dignitaries from the Irish embassies of India and Canada, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, will lay a wreath at the peninsula memorial garden in Ahakista.

Wednesday’s early morning event is being organised by Cork County Council which maintains the commemoration site.

The ceremony will start just before 8.13am – the precise time the Air India 182 flight from Montreal to Delhi disappeared off radar screens at Shannon air traffic control.

The ill-fated jumbo carrying mainly Canadian and Indian citizens, including ten passengers under the age of ten, blew up over the Atlantic off the Irish coast on June 23, 1985.

The wreckage was spread over nine miles in the Atlantic. The plane, it emerged, had been cruising at 31,000ft when an explosion occurred.

Last week a Canadian inquiry determined police should have known the Air India flight was a terrorist target.

Canadian Supreme Court Justice John Major said a “cascading series of errors” contributed to the failure of his country’s police and security forces to prevent the atrocity.

An hour earlier, a bomb in baggage intended for another Air India flight exploded in the Tokyo airport, killing two baggage handlers.

In a five-volume report, Justice Major said the level of error, incompetence, and inattention which took place before the flight exploded off the Irish coast 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”.

Prosecutors claimed the terrorist attack was carried out by Sikh militants in revenge for a deadly 1984 raid by Indian forces on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine 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 to launch a terror attack in Canada and India.

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

Inderit Singh Reyat, who was convicted of manslaughter for the bombings, remains the only suspect ever convicted of a role in the attacks.

Two other accused were brought to trial but never convicted.

The bomb killed all 307 passengers and 22 crew.

Around an hour after the plane disappeared off radar, the cargo ship Laurentian Forest had discovered the wreckage of the aircraft and many bodies floating in the water.

The LÉ Aisling led the search for bodies but the final number recovered was 131.

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