Multiple casualties reported after explosions at church in India
Indian security agencies are probing a series of explosions that occurred at a convention center in Kochi, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on Sunday morning. One person was killed and over 30 were injured, according to PTI news agency.
The explosion occurred at around 9:30am during a prayer meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kalamassery, a municipality around 10 kilometers from the center of Kochi.
The first explosion took place at around 9am, and multiple blasts followed over the next hour, ANI news agency reported. Sunday was the last day of the three-day meeting which began on October 27.
Officials said that over 2,000 people were attending the prayer meeting when the blasts took place. The site has been cordoned off and police and fire rescue services are at the scene.
Disturbing images of the blast inside the convention center shared on social media and by TV channels show massive fires inside the hall as people, including children, are heard screaming while rescue and police personnel evacuate the site.
National Security Guards and counterterrorism teams have been dispatched to the blast site. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said top officials are closely monitoring the situation. “It’s a very unfortunate incident. We are collecting details regarding the incident,” he said.
Local officials told PTI that ten people were admitted to the Kalamassery Medical College burns unit and several patients have been sent to another hospital. Others have been admitted to the general ward of the medical college and other hospitals.
The blast occurred two days after a massive pro-Palestine rally organized by the Solidarity Youth Movement, the youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was held in the Malappuram district of Kerala on Friday.
🇮🇳🇵🇸 INDIA STANDS WITH PALESTINE pic.twitter.com/097VU9JKYJ— Jackson Hinkle 🇺🇸 (@jacksonhinklle) October 28, 2023
The rally stirred controversy after a video showing Khaled Mashal, the former leader of Hamas, virtually participating in the rally, went viral on social media. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has called for action to be taken against both the organizers and attendees of the event, The Week reported.
The Solidarity Youth Movement said the former Hamas leader’s virtual participation was not against the law, as the militant group is not banned in India.
Israel’s envoy to India, Naor Gilon, expressed shock over the virtual attendance of the former Hamas chief at the Kerala protest, reiterating his calls from earlier this week on New Delhi to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.