22 Dec 2016

Christian lobby HQ blast 'not a terrorist act'

9:19 pm on 22 December 2016

An incident in which a van packed with gas bottles exploded outside the headquarters of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated, police say.

ACL managing director Lyle Shelton tweeted the incident last night, saying a vehicle had caught on fire outside its office in Canberra just after 9.30pm.

Mr Shelton added that staff were safe, and photos he shared showed a burnt-out van in the car park near the building's entrance.

ACT police confirmed a 35-year-old Canberra man had ignited gas cylinders in the van and caused an explosion, which damaged the vehicle and building.

The man was the only person injured in the incident and walked himself to Canberra Hospital - a distance of just under 4km - with serious burns.

He was admitted in a critical condition, and later transferred to a hospital in Sydney.

In a statement, police said their brief questioning of the man revealed his actions "were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated".

The man was not previously known to police.

Mr Shelton said he hoped police were correct and that the ACL was not specifically targeted.

"But I don't think it's possible to definitively know from a statement given by a man pulled out from a burning wreck under great distress," he said.

Initially Mr Shelton was describing the blaze as a "targeted attack" on "free speech in Australia".

"We have received a number of death threats and threats of violence over the course of this year that we have reported to police," he said.

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

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said there were "no ongoing safety issues for the ACT community".

"There's no indications that it's a terrorist act," he said.

Windows on ground floor blown out in explosion

Mr Shelton said the ground floor windows of the ACL's offices were blown out by the force of the explosion.

"Fortunately none of our staff or the tenants in the building were there," he said.

"The building was vacant, it was after hours, so none of our people were injured."

The van has been removed from the site but part of its tyres have melted onto the concrete.

Two days ago, a vehicle burst into flames after being rammed into a building only a few kilometres away in Fyshwick.