"Damning" report assails Canada on Air India attack

Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:00pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren and Allan Dowd

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada needs a security tsar to avoid repeating the "cascading series of errors" by intelligence and police agencies that led to the bombing of Air India Flight 182, an inquiry into the case said on Thursday.

The scathing report cited "turf wars" that prevented authorities from stopping the 1985 attack, which killed 329 people, and hamstrung efforts to catch those responsible for history's deadliest bombing of an airliner.

"A cascading series of errors contributed to the failure of our police and our security forces to prevent this atrocity ... various institutions and organizations did not fulfill their responsibilities," said former Supreme Court Judge John Major, who headed the inquiry.

The more than 3,000-page report, which is reminiscent of the findings of a U.S. inquiry into the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, chides the Canadian government for claiming it has since fixed the security lapses.

"This commission rejects that position," Major said.

A suitcase bomb destroyed Air India Flight 182 off Ireland's Atlantic coast on June 23, 1985, while the aircraft was en route from Canada to India via London. Many of the victims were Canadian citizens returning to India to visit relatives.

The attack is widely thought to be the work of western Canadian-based Sikhs fighting for an independent homeland in India, who wanted revenge for India's deadly 1984 storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

An attempt to blow up a second Air India flight over the Pacific at the same time, instead killed two airport workers in Japan when that bomb exploded prematurely. The men who put the suitcase bombs on the planes in Vancouver did not get on the aircraft.   Continued...

<p>Former Supreme Court of Canada Judge John Major leaves after delivering a statement about his final report on the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in Ottawa June 17, 2010.REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>