New York: Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted on charges of bombing an Air India plane killing 329 people on board, has been shot dead in British Columbia, according to media reports.
Malik was killed as he sat inside his car in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey on Thursday, the Vancouver Sun reported.
Malik and a Babbar Khalsa associate, Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge of murder and conspiracy charges in the terrorist bomb attack that brought down Air India’s Kanishka, a Boeing 747 aircraft, over the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland in 1985. Bombs had been planted in the luggage on that plane.
The explosives in the second plane went off at Tokyo airport killing two baggage handlers rather than mid flight. The terrorist attack on Air India, the worst in aviation history but for the 9/11 attacks, is a shameful taint on Canada’s record because it could not bring the perpetrators fully to justice.
Only one person, the bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat was convicted in connection with the attack after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2003 but got off lightly. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and was released in 2016.
Reyat was also convicted of perjury for lying when he testified in the trial of Malik and Bagri. The Sun site quoted Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sergeant Timothy Pierotti as saying, “We are aware of Mr. Malik’s background, though at this time we are still working to determine the motive”.
He said that the police were confident that there were witnesses who could help with the investigation. Retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, who had overseen the investigation into the terrorist attack, indicated to the Sun that Malik had many enemies.
“I’m not privy to the ongoing investigations on Malik right now, but I can say that from years when I was (investigating) that he was involved in a number of activities that might bring him into conflict with other people,” the former official of Canada’s federal police told the Sun.
CTV News reported that a vehicle was found engulfed in flames near the site of the shooting and that it was believed to be associated with Malik’s killing. The Canada Broadcasting Corporation reported that a witness said he heard three shots and pulled Malik from his red Tesla bleeding from a neck wound.
Malik “was acquitted because there were some mistakes during the investigation, the agencies made some mistakes and the courts couldn’t find him guilty,” Rob Alexander, whose father, Mathew Alexander, died in the terrorist attack told CTV News.
Alexander, who is a member of the Air India Victims’ Family Association, added, “Do we get closure from what happened today? Not really. In the end, your loved one’s not coming back”. The Sun said that after his acquittal Malik ran a banking outfit, Khalsa Credit Union, and the Satnam Education Society which runs several “Khalsa schools”.
He also ran a clothing company, Papillon Eastern Imports, in whose parking lot he was killed.