Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Nine killed in bombing in Colombia

SUICIDE MISSION?The vehicle’s driver rammed his way through a permanently guarded gate as if carrying out a suicide attack, according to leaked recordings

AP, BOGOTA

Emergency service personnel work at the scene of an explosion at the Santander General Police Academy in Bogota on Thursday.

Photo: EFE

At least nine people were killed and dozens more injured in a car bombing at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia’s capital on Thursday, recalling the high-profile attacks seen during the bloodiest chapters of the country’s drug-fueled guerrilla conflict.

The scene outside the Santander General Police Academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the immediate aftermath of the midmorning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in the capital in years.

Videos circulating on social media showed panicked police officers carrying injured colleagues on stretchers along a road strewn with debris and body parts. In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the vehicle used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.

Colombian President Ivan Duque rushed back to the capital with his top military advisers from a visit to a western state to oversee the police investigation.

Colombian Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said that a man named Jose Aldemar Rojas driving a 1993 Nissan pickup loaded with 80kg of pentolite carried out the attack.

Martinez said the car had its last official mechanical revision about six months ago in the eastern state of Arauca, along the border with Venezuela.

“This is an attack not only against the young, the security forces or the police. It’s an attack against society,” Duque said in a brief statement after surveying the blast scene. “This demented terrorist act will not go unpunished.”

The police said at least nine people were killed, while the Bogota Department of Health said another 54 were injured.

Among the dead were a Panamanian and an Ecuadorian national.

Rafael Trujillo said he was delivering a care package to his son Gerson, who entered the academy just two days ago, when he was stopped in his tracks by the blast that destroyed windows in apartment buildings as far as four blocks away.

“I’m sad and very worried because I don’t have any information about my son,” said Trujillo, standing outside the facility, where police officers had set up a taped perimeter as forensic specialists surveyed the blast site.

Authorities were at a loss to explain how the vehicle slipped through a gate permanently protected by explosive-sniffing dogs, armed guards and security cameras.

However, there were unconfirmed reports based on leaked recordings of telephone conversations of officers on the scene that the driver rammed past the checkpoint as if carrying out a suicide attack — something unprecedented in decades of political violence in Colombia.

Health authorities in Bogota appealed for residents to donate blood at one of four collection points in the capital to help treat those injured, the majority of whom were rushed to a police hospital.

For decades, residents of Bogota lived in fear of being caught in a bombing by rebels or Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel. However, as Colombia’s conflict has wound down, security has improved and residents have lowered their guard.

Several foreign leaders condemned the attack, as did the former commanders of the disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The UN peace mission in Colombia called it “an unacceptable criminal act which goes against the efforts the country is making to steer away from the violence, and work ... to build a more prosperous and peaceful future.”

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