Kochi: At least one woman was killed and over 36 persons sustained injuries in multiple low-intensity explosions during a Jehovah’s Witness – a Christian sect- prayer meeting at the Zamra International Convention Centre here in Kalamassery today morning. The first of the three blasts happened around 9.40 a.m., eyewitnesses said.
The injured, with three of them in critical condition, have been shifted to the nearby hospitals.
Latest Updates: One more person succumbed to injuries taking the death toll to two. One Antony Dominic posted his video on Facebook, owning the responsibility of the blast. In his message in Hindi, he said he had quit the sect after a long association of 16 years and engineered today’s blasts as this sect’s teachings were against the national interest. He said he was going to surrender before the police.
Around 2,500 attendees were present at the convention centre for the final day of a three-day Jehovah’s Witnesses convention. The prayer meeting had commenced at 9:00 a.m. The previous day, there were around 2,200 participants. An eyewitness said that all of them had their eyes shut while praying when the blast happened in the middle of the hall.
The local authorities have confirmed that the cause of explosions were improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Police sources said that two suspicious suitcases were discovered, leading to the sealing of the hall for further investigation by the police. The police suspect the perpetrators of the blasts fled in a blue colour car just before the explosion.
Police sources said one person has been arrested in connection with the blast, and the blue car has been recovered.
Kerala’s Director General of Police Dr Shaik Darvesh Saheb, told media persons that preliminary investigations suggested that the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) might have been placed inside a tiffin box.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the blasts as “unfortunate” and said the police and investigating agencies were rushed to Kochi and were collecting details. Teams from the state police, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), as well as Anti-terrorist Squad, are working on the details. DGP Dr Saheb said he would be constituting a special team to investigate the incident. An NIA team is also expected to arrive here from New Delhi, reports suggest.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to the Kerala Chief Minister after the explosion to take stock of the situation. Jehovah’s Witness is a worldwide Christian group abundant in Kerala. However, this sect is a minority among other sects of Kerala Christians.
– global bihari bureau