Kerela Blast: In a heart-wrenching incident that has sent shockwaves through the southern state of Kerala, explosions during a religious convention have claimed three lives and left many injured. This tragic event unfolded during a prayer meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination, at the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Kalamassery, Kochi. As the community grapples with the aftermath, authorities are working diligently to piece together the events surrounding the blasts.
Kerela Blast: A Shocking Incident Unfolds
On that fateful Sunday morning, approximately 2,000 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had gathered at the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Kochi. The venue hosted a three-day event of religious significance, which had brought the community together since Friday. As the attendees engaged in prayers, an unthinkable tragedy struck.
At around 9:30 am, in the midst of the congregation, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the suspect, Dominic Martin of Thammanam in Kochi, detonated. The first explosion was mighty, followed by two smaller ones. Witnesses recall the chaos and panic that ensued.
One survivor, Marcel from Varapuzha, described the harrowing scene, saying, “I found a woman in flames lying face down on the floor. I grabbed a hose from the fire-safety system and sprayed water over her to douse the flames, but she was dead seconds later.” The victim’s identity remained unknown until late Sunday.
Tragically, another victim, 53-year-old Kumari of Thodupuzha, succumbed to her injuries later in the hospital. As the day unfolded, it became evident that five other injured individuals were in critical condition. The aftermath of the explosions was captured by CCTV cameras, revealing the chaos and desperation as attendees, including children and older people, tried to escape the burning venue.
Kerela Blast: Jehovah’s Witnesses Community Devastated by Explosions
Survivors reported that the blasts occurred while attendees had their eyes closed in prayer, creating a moment of sheer panic and chaos. The initial powerful explosion was followed by two smaller ones, leaving two women dead on the scene. Many others, including children and older people, were left wounded and traumatized.
Among the injured was a 12-year-old girl from Malayattoor, who sustained 90% burn injuries. Regrettably, she succumbed to her injuries in the early hours of October 30, bringing the death toll to three.
The Investigation and Suspect’s Claim
The investigation into the explosions progressed slowly, with authorities cautioning against the spread of rumors and speculation on social media regarding a potential terror attack on the religious gathering. However, a significant breakthrough emerged when the suspect, Dominic Martin, posted a video claiming responsibility for the blasts. Martin surrendered to Kodakara police in Thrissur, approximately 68 km away, later in the evening.
In his confession, Martin stated that he planted the IEDs due to his belief that the teachings of the denomination he was once a part of were contrary to the welfare of society and the nation. While it remains a matter of scrutiny, Additional DGP (law and order) M R Ajith Kumar noted that Martin had provided evidence supporting his claim, which law enforcement agencies diligently examined.
Kerala Police Chief Shaik Darvesh Saheb confirmed the use of IEDs, and a case was registered against Martin under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosive Substances Act. As the investigation proceeds, security teams have been deployed to public places across the state to ensure no impending threats.
Community in Grief and Action
The Jehovah’s Witnesses community and their well-wishers found themselves grappling with shock, grief, and disbelief as they came to terms with the aftermath of this tragic incident. The loss of two lives and the significant number of injuries have had a profound impact on this close-knit religious group.
To address the medical needs of the injured, doctors from Thrissur and Kottayam medical colleges have been deployed to the Kalamassery hospitals. A 14-member medical board was constituted to oversee their treatment, reflecting a concerted effort to provide the best care to those in critical condition.
In response to the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan swiftly condemned the attack and announced the formation of a 20-member investigative team led by the assistant director-general of police. He further declared an all-party meeting to discuss the next steps in response to this shocking act of violence.
In the wake of the blasts, security has been heightened not only in Kerala but also in other major cities across India. This is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of citizens attending various gatherings and events.
As the Jehovah’s Witnesses community mourns the loss of two of its own, the nation watches with bated breath as the investigation unfolds, aiming to shed light on the motivations and implications behind this tragic event.