‘Breakthroughs are possible in Kanishka bombing probe’

TORONTO :A senior police official, who was involved with the taskforce investigating the Air India flight-182 terrorist bombing for nearly 15 years, believes that further breakthroughs in that case are still possible.

At one point, former RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass headed the investigation into the terror attack.The Air India flight “Emperor Kanishka” was operating on the Vancouver–Toronto–Montreal– London–Delhi route on June 23, 1985 when it was bombed over Irish airspace. The incident claimed 329 lives.

In an interview, Gary Bass, who retired as Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s deputy commissioner for Canada West in 2011, said that while he is no longer associated with the investigation, he believed that progress was still possible 32 years after the incident.

“There’s always the hope someone’s conscience will get to them eventually. There are a lot of cases where people feel intimidated or threatened. After the threat has gone away — due to a number of things, (like) due to the person making the threats not being around anymore — sometimes people feel they can come forward and tell the police what they know,” Bass said.

Currently a senior research fellow at the Burnaby, British Columbia-based Simon Fraser University’s Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Bass was involved with the probe in different capacities since 1996, including being in charge of new investigations.


While the investigations continued, till date only bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat has been convicted in connection with the tragedy. There was no response from the RCMP on a request for an update on the investigation.

There are at least three persons the investigators had leads on. Among them is a person described as Mr X who spent a week with Reyat as he built the bomb used in the attack.

“Various scenarios have come up where he was possibly identified but never fully confirmed. The same thing goes for the two people who checked in the bags in Vancouver — one on Air India flight 182, the other on a flight going west. They’ve never been totally satisfactorily identified to the point charges could be laid. So, that would be an example that there’s things out there to be known,” Bass said.


“I assume if they haven’t identified who those people are concretely, they (the RCMP) are still working at that,” he said, stressing he hasn’t been connected to the task force since retiring.

Bass expressed “concern” that the Khalistan movement continues to persist in Canada. “I don’t think it’s gone by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s still alive and well for sure,” he said.

There is no statute of limitations in Canada for cases relating to terrorism or murder. That gives those like Bass the hope that what appears like a cold case could heat up again in the future.

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