One person died and 36 were injured in a Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Kerala’s Kalamassery on Sunday morning, October 29, after an explosion ripped through a congregation of over 2,000 people, officials said.
Preliminary investigation has revealed blast was caused after an improvised explosive device (IED) kept in a tiffin box went off. Soon after the incident, a senior police officer ruled out initial reports that the explosion was caused by an electric short circuit and confirmed that the explosion was a bomb blast.
Speaking to the media, Kerala DGP Dr Shaik Darvesh Saheb said: “Today morning at 9:40 am approximately there was an explosion at Zamra International Convention & Exhibition Centre in which one person died and 36 persons are undergoing treatment. In the convention centre, we have witnessed a regional convention was happening. All our senior officers are on the spot. Our additional DGP is also in the way. I will also reach the spot shortly. We are conducting a thorough investigation, we will find out who is behind this, and take strict action.”
The DGP also asked the public not to spread provocative or hate messages on social media and warned of stringent action for doing so.
Disturbing visuals inside the convention centre showed an explosion and people screaming.
Latest reports confirm one person named Dominic Martin belonging to the same community claimed responsibility for the blast. Speaking to reporters, ADGP (law and order) MR Ajith Kumar said that Martin surrendered at the Kodakara police station, Trisshur. “Dominic Martin has surrendered with a few supporting evidence. However, the investigations are still going on,” the police official said.
18 in ICU, 6 critically injured
Speaking to reporters, Kerala health minister Veena George said that 52 persons were brought to various hospitals. “Out of which 30 have been admitted, 18 are in ICU and 6 are critically injured. Among the six critically injured, one is a 12-year-old child,” she told.
On being asked if the identity of the dead woman was revealed, she answered in negative.
CM expresses shock, speaks to Shah
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he has conferred with the State DGP who along with other senior police officers have left for the blast site. “It is an unfortunate incident. One person died and two others are in serious condition. An investigation has been launched and further details will be available later,” the CM told reporters in Delhi where he has gone to attend some party programmes. “The incident is being viewed very seriously,” he added.
CM Vijayan has called for an all-party meeting at 10 am in the Chief Minister’s conference hall in the Secretariat complex.
Union home minister Amit Shah spoke to Vijayan and took stock of the situation. “The home minister spoke to the Kerala CM who briefed the former about the incident,” a source said.
NSG teams rushed to the explosion spot
An eight-member team of the National Security Guard (NSG) rushed to the convention centre after news of the blast.
The place has since been sealed off. The bomb squad and forensics team will inspect the place. On the orders of state health minister Veena George, all medical officers have been asked to report on duty. All hospitals Kalamasery Medical College, Ernakulam General Hospital and Kottayam Medical College have been put on alert for burn victims.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed expressed shock over the incident. He wrote in X, “Governor Arif Mohammed Khan says, “Shocked to hear about the blast at a religious gathering at Kalamassery, killing one person and injuring over 20. Heartfelt condolences to the kin of the deceased and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured”
Congress MP from Ernakulam, Hibi Eden, who visited the blast site, told reporters that according to one of his friends who attended the convention, there were multiple blasts.
The MP also said that the bomb squad, forensic team, Kochi City Police Commissioner and Ernakulam District Collector were present at the scene.
The blasts occurred during the convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — a Christian religious group that originated in the United States of America in the 19th century.
CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan, who is also in Delhi, told the media that any terrible actions aimed at diverting attention from the Palestine issue would entail strict action.
“When Kerala is standing united with the people of Palestine, any terrible action to divert attention from it will entail strict action. The government and all democratic persons will together condemn it,” he said.
Asked whether he was terming the incident as a ‘pre-planned conspiracy’ to divert attention from the Palestine issue, Govindan said that has to be examined.
To a query, if he was saying that the blast was not an accident, Govindan replied how can it be an accident when bomb parts have been found at the scene according to the information he received
Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who do not identify with the Holy Trinity (The Father, The Son (Jesus Christ) and The Holy Spirit). They worship Jehovah as “the one true and Almighty God, the Creator”, who is “the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus”. They believe Jesus Christ to be the “King of God’s Kingdom in heaven”, but not as the Almighty God.
(With agency inputs)