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Van explodes outside office of Australian Christian Lobby

Associated Press logo Associated Press 22/12/2016 By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press
The damaged front of the Canberra office of the Australian Christian Lobby is seen in Canberra, Australia, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. A van slammed into the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group in Australia's capital late Wednesday Dec. 21, though it was unclear whether the crash was deliberate, officials said Thursday. (Belinda Merhab/AAP Image via AP) © The Associated Press The damaged front of the Canberra office of the Australian Christian Lobby is seen in Canberra, Australia, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. A van slammed into the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group in Australia's capital late Wednesday Dec. 21, though it was unclear whether the crash was deliberate, officials said Thursday. (Belinda Merhab/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY — A van carrying gas cylinders exploded outside the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group in Australia's capital, though there did not appear to be any political or religious motivations behind the incident, police said Thursday.

The driver, a 35-year-old Australian man, was the only person injured in Wednesday night's explosion, which seriously damaged the van and blew out windows in the two-story 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 critical condition with serious burns. Police have not released his name, saying only that he was not previously known to 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," Walters told reporters in Canberra.

Walters 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 underway, 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 told reporters.

The group has locked the building for most of this year after never doing so for at least eight years, 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 Thursday morning.

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