Man Drives “Car Bomb” Into Pro-Life Organization’s Headquarters

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 23, 2016   |   11:29AM   |   Sydney, Australia

A Christian pro-life organization in Australia was damaged by an explosion on Wednesday in what pro-lifers believe was a “targeted attack,” the BBC reports.

Australian Capital Territory Police said a 35-year-old man parked a van filled with bottles of gas right outside the Australia Christian Lobby headquarters in Canberra and lit them, causing an explosion that damaged the building and destroyed the vehicle. The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Canberra time, ABC Australia reports.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton told ABC that he is glad no one was in the building when the explosion occurred. He said the ground floor windows were blown out, and the van tires melted into the concrete outside the building. Several reporters noted that Shelton was visibly shaken during a press conference Thursday morning.

The Australia Christian Lobby advocates for the right to life by working to stop abortion and euthanasia, as well as other religious causes in Australia.

Police said they spoke briefly to the van driver, currently in serious condition in the hospital, and believe the incident was not “politically, religiously or ideologically” motivated. The man appears to have been the only person injured.

However, leaders of the pro-life group say they may have been targeted. Shelton said they have received a number of death threats and threats of violence in the past year.

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“This is an attack on free speech in Australia which I am deeply shocked about and never thought I would see in my lifetime,” Shelton said.

Later, when asked about the police statement, Shelton maintained that the explosion may have been politically motivated, according to The Guardian.

The report continues:

“Obviously … you don’t just drive around the corner here at 10 o’clock at night, park a van loaded with gas cylinders then detonate it unless you’re trying to send a message to the ACL,” Shelton had told a press conference at the scene.

“I’m sure it’s a message to intimidate us, to cause us to be silent in the public square, and that’s something we’re not prepared to do.”

After the police statement, Shelton told ABC News “as much as I obviously respect the police and the work they do, I’m a little bit sceptical”.

“This seems too much of a coincidence [that] this could be solely the motivation of someone who was just acting without any targeted motive,” he said. “He was pulled from a burning wreck when he gave that statement. He has grievous injuries.”

Shelton said it was too early to rule out that ACL was targeted and claimed that “whilst the police had come to their view, they said they couldn’t rule it in or out when they spoke to me on the phone”.

Shelten said the ACL office is not on a main road, and the van driver parked directly under his office at the ACL carpark, according to The Australian.

“We don’t even know this guy’s name. Apparently he gave some statement when he was grievously injured last night and now he’s in a coma. I can’t see how you can say ‘case closed’ after a guy who is obviously suffering terribly has made certain statements where there hasn’t been an opportunity for a full interrogation of him,” he continued.

“It’s a coincidence of gigantic proportions for this to be plausible and concluded so unequivocally, so quickly, to me just seems strange,” Shelten added.

At another point, Shelten said he is concerned because several “extreme left” members of parliament have described his organization as a hate group and bigots.

“… there are people who are a bit unhinged out there, that sort of rhetoric doesn’t help,” he said.

A police spokesman maintained that they are “confident” in their statement based on their conversation with the man; but they continue to investigate.