Kerala Police Chief Shaik Darvesh Saheb said the yet-to-be-identified saboteur had used an improvised explosive device (IED) to target worshippers at the evangelist prayer convention at Kalammassery in Ernakulam district.
He said, “The blast occurred soon after the prayers began at 9.30 a.m. It claimed the life of one worshipper and injured scores of others. The police will form a special team to investigate the case. They are in touch with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and would work hand in glove with Central agencies to crack the case.”
Mr. Saheb said the police would prosecute those who seek to inflame passions by spreading malicious misinformation on the Internet in the wake of the blasts. He also appealed for calm.
A senior police official said it was not lost on investigators that the blast appeared to be a minor copycat imitation of the Easter Sunday bombings at a church packed with worshippers in Sri Lanka in 2019.
However, he said, it was too early to attribute any motive to the Kalamassery blast. The official said the attack, prima facie, seemed a well-coordinated attempt to precipitate a communally precarious situation in the State through a high-profile act of violence.
The police said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Investigators were unclear if the blasts were the work of a single individual acting in a lone wolf mode or whether any particular group was behind the murder and mayhem that caused shock, fear and anger in society.
The police investigation also factored in that the blast had occurred when a fraught political atmosphere prevailed in the world owing to the anguish-inducing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
Investigators suspect that the perpetrators had employed low-grade and readily available explosives used in fireworks to assemble the “homemade” device.
They said only a chemical examination would reveal the type of explosive used in the bomb.
However, an official said, prima facie, that the charge was minimal in quantity and inferior in quality. However, it had an outsized impact, given the IED fragmentation in a confined and crowded place.
Meanwhile, the details of the preliminary investigations that trickled into the public domain indicated that the bombmaker used a commonplace steel lunch box to conceal the device. The reports also said the “bomber” used a blue-coloured car as a getaway vehicle.
An official pointed out that perpetrators of the 2005 London bus bombings had used similar ubiquitous food containers to conceal the lethal IEDs.
The State police were yet to determine the motive of the attack. Officials said the initial analysis suggested that the perpetrator aimed to make an ominous political statement by targeting a high-profile religious meeting packed with members of a particular community.
The police were also struggling to determine the bomb’s trigger mechanism, including whether it was a timed blast or one triggered remotely using a mobile phone.
Investigators said it required a certain amount of skill to fabricate an IED, even the low-grade one used in the Kalamassery blast.
They said the suspect could have collaborators, including overseas persons communicating and lending aid and advice via the Internet.