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Ireland marks 25th anniversary of Air India crash

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Irish, Indians, Canadians gather for somber commemoration
  • 329 people killed in 1985 bombing
  • Air India plane went down off Ireland
  • Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists blamed for attack
  • Ireland
  • Air-India Ltd.
  • India
  • Canada

(CNN) -- Irish officials and ambassadors gathered on Ireland's southern coast Wednesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombing that killed all 329 people aboard.

Air India flight 182 went down in the Atlantic Ocean off Ireland's County Cork while en route from Montreal, Canada, to India in 1985. A majority of the victims were Canadian nationals of Indian origin.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin called the bombing "evil and cowardly" and said all countries should work together to fight such terrorism.

"Those who use terrorism and violence in pursuit of their misguided objectives seek to divide people and communities with their agenda of hate and intolerance," he said Wednesday in the town of Ahakista, one of the closest spots to the crash site.

"But looking at those gathered here today I see only unity, common purpose and a shared grief. This feeling of grief and loss transcends all boundaries, it joins us as one people."

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remembered the 1985 bombing as the "most barbarous" act of terror.

"This was a horrific incident which shook the world's conscience. It is with a sense of deep pain and sorrow that I join the families and friends in paying my homage to all those who fell victim to this most barbarous act of terrorism," Singh said in a statement.

"No religion, faith or cause can justify such violence or inhumanity. On this solemn occasion, we must rededicate ourselves to fighting and eliminating terrorism with determination and joint action."

Both Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists were blamed for the attack, which coincided with a bombing that killed two cargo handlers at Tokyo, Japan's Narita Airport. That bomb had been in an Air Canada plane en route to India.

Only one person was convicted in connection with the Air India bombing. Injerjit Singh Reyat pleaded guilty in 2003 to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. All other charges against him, including murder, were stayed and he was sentenced to five years in prison, the CBC said.

Two others charged in the attacks were cleared after a trial in 2005. Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri had been accused of murder and conspiracy in the two bombings, but a supreme court judge dismissed the charges, saying the evidence against them was not credible.

A commission's report on the crash last week blamed a "cascading series of errors" by the Canadian government, police, and spy agency for failing to prevent the disaster, the CBC said.

Martin said the tragedy had forged "unbreakable bonds" between Ireland, Canada and India.

"Those who were lost on that day will never be forgotten," Martin said. "They are with us always, in our hearts, in our memories and here, at Ahakista."

CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh contributed to this report.