Canberra, December 22: A car bomb hit the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) headquarters when a van reportedly carrying gas cylinders drove into the conservative group’s headquarters here, on Wednesday night, police said.
Police confirmed the van that exploded was actually detonated by the driver himself.
Deputy Chief Police Commander Mark Walters said the driver appeared to have ignited gas cylinders inside the vehicle about 9.30pm.
The van was destroyed and the two-storey office building, named Eternity House, was badly damaged by the fire. Outside, shattered glass littered the ground with sign of scorched concrete.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton posted two images online on Thursday morning of the vehicle outside the office in the inner-southern Canberra suburb of Deakin. The van had apparently rammed the building before exploding.
After the suspicious Wednesday-night explosion, he connected the incident to the ACL’s staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools initiative, labelling the apparent attack “unsettling” in the context of death threats being made against members of the organisation.
He called it ‘an attempt at political intimidation’.
Death threats have been made against the group over debates on Marriage Equality and Safe Schools agendas.
Doubling down on his scepticism of the ACT police declaration, Mr Shelton said, “I think something of this nature, that appears to be so deliberate, is an attack against the sort of things that we’ve been saying in the public square,” he told the ABC News.
“And obviously someone didn’t like that which we stand for, which we’ve advocated publicly”.
He said that it “just doesn’t make sense” and was “too soon to be able to establish [his motives] unequivocally”.
The police said gas cylinders inside the van were ignited late on Wednesday night outside the organisation’s headquarters in the suburb of Deakin.
The driver then presented himself to Canberra Hospital where he was in a “critical condition” on Thursday, according to ACT Health.
According to the police, there were no injuries suffered by people inside the building but the driver was treated at Canberra Hospital, from serious burn injuries.
Police later said in a statement that they had established that actions of the 35-year-old male driver “were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated”.
Deputy Chief Police Commander Mark Walters said that police conclusion was based on conversations with the man, not previously known to police. The police have also spoken with his family.
But Mr Shelton criticised “extreme left” politicians.
Refusing to apologise for saying it was an attempt to silence the ACL, he singled out Greens – former senator Robert Simms and MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt. Mr Shelton said that labelling the ACL as “bigots” and “hate group” would lead to a “permission structure to people who might be unhinged”.
The ACL will now review security comprehensively following the explosion.
Police urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.
Please quote reference 6049560. Information can be provided anonymously.