Two bombs went off within 20 minutes of each other yesterday, while people gathered for their Sunday worship at nearby churches in the US state of New Mexico.
Police say the two explosions in Las Cruces, which is also known as the 'City of the Crosses', are likely to be linked, though they are unable to say whether they were terrorist attacks. The FBI and the Department for Homeland Security are involved in the investigation.
No-one was injured, but locals said this was only due to luck. At Holy Cross Catholic Church, the bomb exploded in a trash can near the entrance, but members had gathered for communion so there was nobody nearby. At Calvary Baptist Church, the device exploded next to the administrative entrance of the church, away from where people were entering to begin their morning worship. Governor Susana Martinez said that the bombs had been "meant to cause harm".
Holy Cross parishioner John Anderson was just about to take communion when he heard a loud bang. "I was right in the middle of saying the words 'take and eat, this is my body' and there was a Pow! I mean, I knew it had to be more than a gunshot," he told local newspaper Las Cruces Sun News. "It didn't know if it was a shotgun blast, I didn't know what. But it was very loud and I just kept on saying the words."
"Only a coward would place an explosive device in a place of peace and a place of worship," said the Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, at a press conference yesterday. "If your intention was to bring fear to those who worship, you have failed. Our faith is too strong and our fellowship is unbreakable."
With the region's churches on high alert, a suspicious package was also reported at another New Mexico church in Albuquerque and the church evacuated, though it was later found to be harmless.