‘IED’ bomb blast kills one person and wounds 36 others at Christian prayer meeting in India

  • The explosion hit a convention centre in the southern Kerala state this morning

A huge blast thought to have been caused by an improvised explosive device ripped through a Christian prayer meeting in India’s southern state of Kerala, killing one person and wounding 36 others, police have said.

Pictures show a fireball erupting in a meeting hall as worshippers watched the flames in horror, with plastic chairs flung across the floor as others ran for their lives.

More than 2,000 people were attending the final day of a three-day Jehovah’s Witnesses prayer meeting in Kalamassery, near the port city of Kochi, when the blast tore through the building.

The circumstances around it are now the subject of an urgent probe, with police saying they ‘are examining all angles’ and vowing to find out ‘who is behind this.’

The explosion rocked the Zamra International Convention Centre at about 9.40am (04.10 GMT), with 36 people rushed to hospital and now undergoing treatment, Director General of Police of Kerala Darvesh Saheb said.

Pictures show a fireball erupting in a meeting hall as worshippers watched the flames in horror

‘We will find out who is behind this and take stringent action… preliminary investigation shows it was an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,’ he added.

Counter-terror investgators and National Security Guards are reportedly on the scene.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported at least three ‘blasts’.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters police were investigating the ‘unfortunate incident’ and said that he was monitoring the situation closesly.

Police and medical personnel were put on high alert state-wide.

The blast comes against a backdrop of tensions within the prosperous southern state of more than 31 million people, 26 percent of whom are Muslims, according to the last census in 2011.

‘I would request everyone to maintain peace, remain calm, and I also request that no provocative posts are made on social media,’ Saheb said.

The explosion came a day after former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal addressed a pro-Palestinian rally in a pre-recorded address in Kerala’s Malappuram, around 115 kilometres (71 miles) to the north.

There was no indication that the events were in any way connected, but social media carried several posts connecting the speech and the blast.

Victims recieve medical treatment at the Government Medical College hospital in Ernakulam after the blast during a Jehovah Witnesses meeting

People gather outside following a blast at the Zamra convention center in Kalamassery, a town in Kochi, southern Kerala state, India

The inclusion of the senior Hamas official drew condemnation from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mashal’s address to the rally was organised by a youth solidarity group affiliated with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Hind party in the state.

Around two percent of India’s 1.4 billion people are Christian, according to the last census. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a US-based Christian evangelical movement, who are best known for knocking on doors around the world, bible in hand, trying to convert people to their beliefs.

The movement, which preaches non-violence and is politically neutral, has a long history of being persecuted.

It is a millennial faith, meaning its members believe that the end of the world is near and that God’s kingdom will soon rule over the earth.

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