SURREY, British Columbia – A man acquitted in a terrorist bomb that killed 329 people aboard an Air India plane in 1985 was killed Thursday in a possible targeted shooting, Canadian authorities said.
Officials said the victim was Ripudaman Singh Malik, who along with co-defendant Ajaib Singh Bagri was found not guilty in March 2005 of murder and conspiracy in a pair of Air India bombings that killed 331 people on June 23, 1985.
Police had not initially released the dead man’s identity, but confirmed it after Malik’s son, Jaspreet Malik, reported his father’s murder in a statement on social media.
“The media will always refer to him as an accused of the Air India bombing,” the son wrote on Facebook. “The media and the RCMP never seemed to accept the court’s decision, and I pray that today’s tragedy is unrelated.”
A witness working at a car wash in Surrey said he heard gunshots Thursday morning and ran outside to find Malik unconscious in his car.
In a statement, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said: “We are aware of Mr Malik’s background, although we are currently working to establish the motive. We can confirm that the shooting appears to be targeted and there is no evidence that additional risk to the public. “
Sgt. Timothy Pierotti said that because the shooting took place in a residential area, police were convinced witnesses would be able to help solve the crime.
Police said shortly after the attack that a vehicle believed to have been used in the shooting was found engulfed in fire a few blocks away.
In Malik’s trial, the British Columbia Supreme Court heard that a suitcase bomb was loaded on a plane at Vancouver’s airport and then transferred in Toronto to Air India Flight 182. The plane crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland, killing 329 passengers and crew.
About an hour later, a bomb destined for another Air India plane exploded prematurely at Tokyo’s Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man convicted in the bombings, testified before the prosecution at the trial of Malik and Bagris and was later convicted of perjury.
Deepak Khandelwal of Oakville, Ontario, said the shooting “just brings back all the horrible memories we’ve had to go through for the last 37 years.”
He was 17 when his sisters, 21-year-old Chandra and 19-year-old Manju, were killed on Flight 182.
“It’s like a nightmare that never stops giving,” he said.