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Kanishka: Canada had hiked security

May 07, 2007 19:04 IST

The Canadian police was so concerned about threats to Air India that it put extra security at Toronto's Pearson International airport a day before the Kanishka bombing on June 22, 1985, documents released at the Air India inquiry reveal.

The just-declassified documents paint a picture of the extra measures that were undertaken by Canada's national police force to combat the continuing threat against Air India, which had received repeated warnings of hijackings, sabotage and bombings for months.

Among the startling threats detailed in the documents is an October 1984 report that Ajaib Singh Bagri -- the man later tried and acquitted in the bombing -- had been put on an international committee of militants to plot Air India hijackings that month.

The inquiry was rocked last week when former intelligence official James Bartleman, who is now Ontario's lieutenant-governor, testified he had seen a specific threat targeting Air India Flight 182 on the June 22-23 weekend.

Bartleman said he was brushed off when he tried to raise it with an RCMP officer on June 18.

In fact, between June 18 and 20, the Royal Canadian Mounted Policehad laid out its plans for heightened security for the ill-fated flight in memos filed at the inquiry, labeled secret, media reports said.

A June 20, 1985 note by RCMP Sargent J B MacDonald said, "Extra security is in effect for Air India and will be for the next two Saturdays (June 22 and 29, 1985).

"The duration of the security is four hours, except when the flight is late departing, etc. and consists of the following: One uniformed member at the ticket counter until it closes then the member goes directly to the bridgehead until it closes for departure," the memo said.

"From the time the plane lands and parks until its departure, a (police cruiser) is parked beside it keeping it under observation," Can West News Service quoted the memo as saying.

The memo makes reference to Staff Sargent A W Gillies being advised of the "foregoing information."

Staff Sargent Gillies was one of two RCMP officers at the June 18 security meeting about Sikh extremists where Bartleman said he interrupted to pass on the intelligence about the specific threat.

Bartleman testified he could not remember the name of the person with whom he spoke, nor could he provide a physical description.

The RCMP went ahead with the extra security, even though Transport Canada had "declined overtime stating added security for June 1985 was not necessary even though the RCMP position was that it was warranted," another document says.

The RCMP timesheet for the Air India detail in June 1985 shows five officers on duty on June 22, up from three the previous week.

Their handwritten report notes that the Air India flight departed Toronto for Montreal at 20:05 "without incident."

A latter entry, at 5:50 am, on June 23, says, "An Air India flight B 747 with 325 passengers was lost on radar at 04:00 Toronto time, 90 miles off the coast of Ireland... The flight was identified as Flight 182 from Mirabel."
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