Air India Flight 182: The Transactions leading to Terrorism
Attack profile of the Air India Flight 182
On this day 37 years ago, a suitcase bomb planted by Canada-based Sikh militants on Air India Flight 182 exploded and killed all 329 people aboard. After departure from Toronto, the plane crashed off the coast of Ireland. Decades later, the bombing remains the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. The events of Flight 182 led to changes in Canadian airline policies as well as a broader shift in the nation’s security and intelligence institutions. The financial details of the event, along with the response of the Canadian government, are outlined below.
June 23, 1985, marks one of the deadliest acts of aviation terrorism. 329 people on board Air India Flight 182, most of whom were Canadian, were murdered in a terrorist act. The bombing was part of a larger transnational terrorist conspiracy by Canada-based Sikh militants, primarily members of the Babbar Khalsa International group (BKI). Another bomb connected to the plot was meant to explode aboard Air India Flight 301. However, it mistakenly detonated while being transferred at the Narita Airport in Japan, killing two baggage handlers and injuring four others.
Members of BKI, the International Sikh Youth Federation, and other radical groups within the Sikh community wanted to send a message to the Indian government through the attacks. They demanded the creation of an independent Sikh state, to be called Khalistan, in the Northern province of Punjab in India. Talwinder Singh Parmar founded the first unit of BKI in Canada in 1981. It was members and associates of this unit that planned and conducted the bombing. Devotees of Parmar, including Ripudaman Singh Malik, have “admitted to financing some of Parmar’s ‘religious’ activities and admiring him as a preacher.” While concrete details on how the attack was financed are sparse, it seems as though resources for the bombing came from contributors in the Sikh community and from the personal funds of the plotters.
In the months leading up to the attack, the newly established Canadian Security Intelligence Service was keeping tabs on Parmar. They followed him on a ferry from the mainland of British Columbia to Vancouver Island in early June 1985, where he met a local mechanic, Inderjit Singh Reyat, along with another unnamed individual. Reyat bought two Micronta seven-day timers from Radio Shack, batteries, an FM tuner casing to house the bomb, a VCR, several sticks of dynamite, and a blasting manual in preparation for the attack. The three men tested bomb materials which would later be used on the Air India flight. On June 19th, 1985, one of Parmar’s associates (suspected to be Hardial Singh Johal) then used $3,005 in cash to buy two Canadian Pacific Airlines tickets that connected with Air India flights.