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Canada: Punjabi school razed, sabotage likely

July 31, 2009 20:28 IST

A school in Vancouver, Canada, started by Air India bombing accused Ripudaman Singh Malik, was gutted in fire on Thursday.

Cops have not ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

The fire reportedly started simultaneously in the three buildings of the Punjabi school and spread rapidly. Deputy Fire Chief Tim Armstrong called the fire 'unusual'.

Before the fire broke out, offices of the school were reportedly ransacked. The school secretary, who arrived at work at 7.45 am on Thursday, was startled to find file cabinet drawers open and papers thrown about the office.

'She dialled 911 to inform about the break-in, and as she looked out of the window, she saw smoke coming out of one of the buildings,' School Principal Jasbir Singh Bhatia was quoted as saying.

'They (911 staff) told her to get out of the building and that the fire trucks were on their way.  The whole building was very quickly engulfed in flames.'

Arson investigators are working with the fire department in the investigation.

Bhatia disagreed with reports that the fire could be result of unhappiness on the part of people over Malik's acquittal in the 1985 Air India bombing in which 329 people were killed.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail, there was a release issued by a group of Sikhs that stated, 'If the authorities confirm that this crime was motivated by hatred, it should serve as a wakeup call to all British Columbians that much more work needs to be done to increase cultural understanding and to combat the existence of hate groups.'

Ajit Jain in Vancouver