Police investigate as Kerala blast death toll rises to three

Police are interrogating a man who surrendered after claiming he was behind the blasts

Jehovah's Witnesses wait outside the Zamra International Convention Centre after the explosion. AP
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Three people have been killed due to a series of explosions at a Jehovah's Witness meeting in India’s southern Kerala state.

Police confirmed two women were killed on Sunday. A girl, 12, died on Monday due to burns.

About 50 people were injured when simultaneous explosions ripped through the mass gathering at Zamra International Convention Centre at about 9.45am local time in the city of Kochi.

The blasts were caused by an improvised explosive device kept in a lunchbox at the venue. More than 2,000 people were in attendance.

The girl who died on Monday morning was admitted with 95 per cent burns to the Kalamassery Government Medical College Hospital.

She was put on a ventilator but her condition deteriorated. She died at 12.40am local time.

“A 12-year-old girl lost her life. Three people have died in total,” Vipin Das, a senior police officer, told The National.

Police and federal government agencies have launched an investigation in a bid to identify those responsible.

Police said a man named Dominic Martin turned himself in to the authorities after claiming he was behind the explosions.

Mr Martin, believed to be in his fifties, lived in a two-bedroom rented house with his son and wife.

He reportedly told his wife that he was going to meet a friend on Sunday morning.

Before surrendering to police, Mr Martin reportedly released a six-minute video on social media in which he claimed he did not agree with the ideas of the Christian sect.

He said they were “dangerous to the country” and wanted to stop them from “poisoning young minds”.

“Six years ago, I realised that this organisation was on the wrong path, and their teachings were anti-national. I asked them to correct it several times. However, they were never ready to do that,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Das said that the police were interrogating him as part of their investigation.

“He surrendered to Thrissur police and was later transferred to Kochi police station. He is being interrogated and police are collecting evidence from the convention centre,” Mr Das said.

The explosion has sent shock waves across the state.

“I was shaken, and I opened my eyes to see fire and smoke in the hall. It took place in the middle of the hall near where the console was placed. I was just five rows behind,” said Michael, one of the survivors.

State Health Minister Veena George said that following the blast, 17 people were receiving treatment in different hospitals, 12 of them in the intensive care unit.

“We are giving every possible support … those who are critically ill have burns above 50 to 60 per cent … four are critically ill, rest are almost stable … all of them have burns, but no other injuries are found. They have burns,” she said.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 10:07 AM