Malik, acquitted in deadly 1985 Air India bombing, killed in Canada -media

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FILE PHOTO: Sikh activist Ripudaman Singh Malik smiles as he leaves Vancouver court after verdict in Air India ...

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A man was shot dead in British Columbia on Thursday who local media reports said was Ripudaman Singh Malik, a Canadian Sikh businessman acquitted in connection with the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people.

Police, in a statement responding to a Reuters request for information on Malik's death, said they had found a man suffering from gunshot wounds when officers responded to a reported shooting just before 9:30 a.m. (1630 GMT).

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) statement did not name the man but said he died on the scene in Surrey, British Columbia. An RCMP spokesperson said they could not name the victim and that the investigation was ongoing.

Local media, citing sources and a witness, reported that the man was Malik.

The attack on Air India Flight 182, which exploded over the Atlantic Ocean in 1985, is one of history's deadliest bombings of a commercial airliner.

Police have alleged it was plotted by Sikh extremists living in Canada as revenge on India for its storming of Sikhism's Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.

The RCMP, in its statement on Thursday, said the killing appeared to be targeted and that they had found a suspect vehicle fully engulfed in fire.

Authorities were still looking for the suspects and a second vehicle that may have been used as getaway vehicle, the RCMP added.

Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, a sawmill worker in Kamloops, British Columbia, were charged in 2000 with bombing Flight 182.

They were also charged with killing two baggage handlers who died when a suitcase bomb, alleged by police as designed to destroy another Air India jet over the Pacific Ocean, exploded in Japan's Narita airport.

Both were acquitted of the charges in 2005 after a trial that lasted nearly two years and heard from 115 witnesses.

Canadian police were criticized for an investigation that some said was bungled and led to just one conviction - Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to a charge of manslaughter for helping collect materials used to make the bombs.

The Canadian government also formally apologized in 2010 to families of the Air India victims, saying authorities failed to act on information that could have prevented the attack or catch those responsible.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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