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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Canada launches Air India inquiry
By Ian Gunn
BBC News, Vancouver

Wreckage of Air India 182 is recovered
Air India flight 182 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has launched an official inquiry into the bombing of an Air India passenger plane more than 20 years ago.

Air India Flight 182 from Canada to India crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland in June 1985, killing all 329 people on board.

Last year two Canadian men were acquitted of the bombing.

Families of the victims have been pressuring the Canadian government to hold an inquiry ever since.

Shocked and angry after the acquittals, they immediately called for an investigation that might lead to some answers.

We cannot undo the past... But we can provide some measure of closure to the families who lost loved ones
Stephen Harper
Canadian Prime Minister

The government resisted, agreeing only reluctantly to a limited investigation.

But following national elections early this year, the campaign suddenly found a sympathetic ear in the new prime minister, Stephen Harper.

Anti-terror measures

Now Mr Harper has told parliament that a full inquiry will begin immediately.

The aim, he says, is to prevent future acts of terrorism in Canada and to provide missing answers about the Air India bombing.

"We cannot undo the past," he said in parliament. "But we can provide some measure of closure to the families who lost loved ones on that Flight 182.

"And by seeking answers and confronting shortcomings in our current system, we can ensure that we save lives in the future."

The retired Supreme Court judge heading the inquiry will hear evidence about Canadian anti-terror measures both in the 1980s and now.

He will also press for answers from Canadian police and intelligence agencies that are widely believed to have botched surveillance at the time of the bombing and destroyed crucial evidence since.

Victims' families have generally welcomed the announcement.

But many say this development is so late in coming that they have only modest hopes now of gaining new insights or a sense of justice more than 20 years after the crime.

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