Thu | Feb 21, 2019

Nine dead in car bombing at police academy in Colombia capital

Published:Friday | January 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Family members of victims of a bombing gather outside the entrance to the General Santander police academy where the bombing took place in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/John Wilson Vizcaino)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP):

At least nine people were killed and dozens more injured in a car bombing at a police academy in Colombia's capital on Thursday, recalling the high-profile attacks associated with the bloodiest chapters of the country's drug-fuelled guerrilla conflict.

The scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the immediate aftermath of the mid-morning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in the capital in over a decade, with ambulances and helicopters rushing to the normally tightly controlled facility.

Witnesses said they heard a loud blast that destroyed windows in adjacent apartment buildings several blocks away. Pictures on social media showed a charred vehicle surrounded by debris on the academy's leafy campus.

The police said at least nine people were killed, while Bogota's health department 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 school just two days ago, when he was stopped in his tracks by the blast a block away from the school's heavily fortified main gate.

"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.

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

 

'Miserable' attack

 

President Ivan Duque said he and his top military commanders were rushing back to the capital from a visit to a western state to oversee police investigation into what he called a "miserable" attack.

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

"All of us Colombians reject terrorism and are united in confronting it," Duque said in a tweet. "We won't bend in the face of violence."

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

While authorities had yet to suggest who was behind the attack, attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been stepping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a stand-off with the conservative Duque over how to restart stalled peace talks.

The group, known as the ELN, was long considered a lesser military threat than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, whose 7,000 guerrilla fighters disarmed themselves as part of a 2016 peace accord.