Monday 16 September 2019

Van carrying gas cylinders explodes outside office of Christian lobbying group

The damaged front of the Canberra office of the Australian Christian Lobby is seen in Canberra. (Belinda Merhab/AAP Image via AP)
The damaged front of the Canberra office of the Australian Christian Lobby is seen in Canberra. (Belinda Merhab/AAP Image via AP)

Kristen Gelineau

A van carrying gas cylinders has exploded outside the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group in Australia's capital, leaving the driver critically injured.

Police said there did not appear to be any political or religious motivations behind the incident in Canberra on Wednesday night.

The driver, a 35-year-old Australian man, was the only person injured in the explosion, which seriously damaged the van and blew out windows in the two-storey building, Australian Capital Territory police said.

The driver ignited several gas cylinders that were inside the van, causing the explosion, Deputy Chief Police Officer Mark Walters said. He then walked to a hospital, where he was in a critical condition with serious burns.

Police have not released his name, saying only that he was not previously known to the authorities.

"As a result of our conversations with the man, we have been able to establish that his actions were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated," Mr Walters said.

He declined to elaborate on why they have ruled out any sort of political motive, and would not say whether the man had any connection to the Australian Christian Lobby, a conservative advocacy group. An investigation into what prompted him to ignite the cylinders was under way, Mr Walters said.

The head of the Australian Christian Lobby said his group had received anonymous threats over the past year because of its opposition to gay marriage and equality for transgender students.

"I don't know the motivation of last night's attack, but the context of what I see here is in the context of multiple death threats and threats of violence that my staff have endured over the course of this year," managing director Lyle Shelton said.

The group has locked the building for most of this year after never doing so for at least eight years, Mr Shelton said, calling the incident a "truly shocking situation".

Police said they were investigating the threats against the group.

The van was removed from the scene early on Thursday morning.

PA Media

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