Canadian PM issues unqualified apology to kin of Air India victims

     Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday issued an unqualified apology to the relatives of the victims of the Air India plane bombing of 1985. The powerful and emotional apology was issued on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in Toronto. "I will make no attempt to make any sense of it. This was evil, perpetrated by cowards, despicable, senseless and vicious," the Globe and Mail quoted Harper, as saying on Wednesday evening at a Toronto ceremony for relatives of the 329 people, most of them Canadians, whose plane was bombed out of the sky on June 23, 1985, killing all aboard. What Harper did was give a long-awaited government acknowledgement that the bombing - the worst act of mass murder in the country's history - was a preventable, wholly Canadian crime, badly mishandled by federal intelligence and police agencies. The tragedy was made worse, the Prime Minister said, when "the families were for years after treated with scant respect or consideration" by Canadian authorities. "I stand before you, therefore, to offer on behalf of the Government of Canada, and all Canadians, an apology," he said. Air India Flight 182 left Canada and disintegrated at 31,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean after a bomb, hidden in luggage, exploded. An hour earlier, another bomb, destined for a second Air India plane on the other side of the world, exploded on the ground at Tokyo's Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers and bringing the total death toll to 331. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty accompanied the Prime Minister at the Toronto ceremony. The event was held around an Air India monument in a city park on the shores of Lake Ontario. Similar events were held Wednesday in Vancouver, Ottawa and in Ireland, where families travelled after the plane exploded off the Irish coast. They went in hope of claiming the remains of their loved ones, but just 131 bodies were recovered from the ocean. Canadian authorities linked the bombings to Sikh extremists intent on avenging anti-Sikh violence in India. The authorities had received advance warnings that Indian planes would be targeted, but failed to stop the attacks. Only one person has been convicted in relation to the bombings. Inderjit Singh Reyat, an electrician from Duncan, B.C., was convicted of manslaughter for his part in supplying the explosives placed in the two suitcases that originated at Vancouver International Airport. In 2005, two British Columbia men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy charges. Canada's mainstream Sikh community has repeatedly denounced the attacks, which also killed several Sikh passengers aboard Flight 182.

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