• Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Death toll rises to three at blast during India’s Jehovah’s Witness event

A man claiming to be a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was detained for questioning about his alleged involvement in the incident

An ambulance arriving carrying the injured people to the hospital after multiple explosions took place at a prayer convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kochi, kerala. (ANI Photo)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE death toll from a homemade bomb blast during a Christian prayer meeting in India has risen to three, police said Monday (30), as authorities questioned a man claiming responsibility.

More than 2,000 people were attending a three-day Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting at a convention centre in the southern state of Kerala on Sunday (29) morning when the blast and subsequent fireball ripped through the crowd.

Police said preliminary investigations showed the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device.

One woman died immediately, and another died hours later of her wounds.

Local assistant police commissioner PV Baby said on Monday that a 12-year-old girl had also died after suffering from burns covering much of her body.

“There are three to four people with serious injuries,” Baby added.

The explosion happened in Kalamassery, near the port city of Kochi.

Hours later, a man handed himself in to the police after releasing a video message on social and aired on television channels, in which he claimed to be a disgruntled former member of the church.

State chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said that the probe into the blasts is “progressing efficiently”.

Vijayan, in a post on social media platform X, also urged people to steer clear of controversies in connection with the blasts and to face it with restraint and unity.

He said this after visiting the blast site and meeting with the families of the victims who lost their lives in the tragic incident.

“Visited the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre at Kalamassery to assess the situation after Sunday’s blast. Met with the grieving relatives of Kumari and Leona Paulus,” he said on X.

“Also, checked in on those receiving treatment at the medical college, ensuring that they get necessary care. The investigation is progressing efficiently. Let’s face this with restraint and unity, and steer clear of unnecessary controversies.”

Meanwhile, Indian IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar alleged that Kerala, under chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, has shown tolerance towards radical elements and radicalisation.

He was hitting back at Vijayan who a day ago slammed the BJP leader over his social media posts criticising Vijayan over the blasts.

The state leader on Sunday alleged that the statements by the BJP leader were the reflection of an absolute communal outlook.

Responding to his remarks, Chandrasekhar clarified that he did not mention any community in his post on the social media platform X.

“I had talked about Hamas and it was almost like the CM was trying to equate Hamas with the broader Muslim brothers and sisters of our state and country,” he contended.

Around two per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people are Christian, according to the last census in 2011.

There are nearly 60,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in India, according to the church’s website.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a US-based Christian evangelical movement and are known for knocking on doors trying to convert people to their beliefs.

The movement, which preaches non-violence and is politically neutral, has a history of persecution, with its activities banned or restricted in several countries.


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