Saturday August 17th, 2019 5:05PM

10 dead in car bombing at police academy in Colombia capital

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A car bomb exploded at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia's capital on Thursday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens in an attack that recalled the bloodiest chapters of the country's drug-fueled guerrilla conflict.

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

Videos circulating on social media show panicked officers hauling injured colleagues on stretchers with debris and body parts strewn in front of red tile-roofed cadet barracks. In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the truck used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.

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, which points to a possible suicide bombing - something unprecedented in decades of political violence in the Andean nation.

Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas, driving a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 pounds) of pentolite, carried out the attack. He said the car had its last official mechanical revision some 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 defense ministry said 10 people were killed and another 66 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 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, heavily-armed guards and security cameras. But there were unconfirmed reports based on leaked recordings of phone conversations of officers on the scene that the driver rammed through the checkpoint on a kamikaze mission.

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 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, and no armed group claimed responsibility, attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been stepping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a standoff with the conservative Duque over how to re-start 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 as part of a 2016 peace accord.

But in the wake of the peace deal the Cuban-inspired insurgency has been gaining strength, especially along the eastern border with Venezuela, where it has carried out a number of kidnappings and bombings of oil pipelines. That has hardened Duque's resolve in refusing to resume peace talks that have been stalled since he took office last August, despite a rebel offer of a cease-fire.

Other possible assailants include the country's Usuga drug cartel, which has suffered a number of setbacks at the hands of the police, and dissident members of the FARC.

Several foreign leaders condemned the attack, as did the former commanders of the disbanded FARC.

The United Nations 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."

An explosion at the upmarket Andino shopping mall in June 2017 killed three people, including a French woman, and injured another 11. Police later arrested several suspected members of a far-left urban guerrilla group called the People Revolutionary's Movement for the bombing.

But it has been more than a decade since a police or military installation in the capital has suffered a major bombing. A blast at military university in 2006 left almost two dozen people injured.

Ariel Avila, an analyst who tracks violence, said that in the last four years, there have been 28 attacks in the capital with explosives. While the majority has been carried out with low-grade homemade materials and grenades that have damaged property but left no casualties, he said police intelligence and checkpoints surrounding the city need to be reinforced to prevent more attacks.

"We need to fortify the city again," he told Blu Radio.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
10 dead in car bombing at police academy in Colombia capital
Authorities say at least nine people have been killed and dozens injured in a car bombing at a police academy in Colombia's capital
5:22PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Federal workers caught in the middle apply for unemployment
Tens of thousands of federal workers and their families have been forced to turn to programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps to stay afloat during the government shutdown
5:20PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Chinese ambassador warns Canada to stop rallying allies
China's ambassador to Canada is warning the Canadian government to stop recruiting international support in its feud with China and has threatened retaliation if Canada bans Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei for security reasons
5:18PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Brazil's Bolsonaro makes stumbling start as president
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's first two weeks on the job have been filled with missteps and communication gaffes _ and little in the way of his promised sweeping changes
4:55PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Watchdog: Thousands more children may have been separated
Government investigators say thousands more migrant children may have been separated from their parents than previously reported
4:44PM ( 44 minutes ago )
Talks resume in effort to end strike by LA teachers
A new round of contract negotiations began between Los Angeles school district officials and a teachers union as thousands of educators picketed in the rain
4:44PM ( 45 minutes ago )
AP National News
Opioid crisis brings unwanted attention to wealthy family
The nation's deadly opioid crisis is bringing new and unwanted attention to the wealthy Sackler family and complicating its philanthropic legacy
3:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Microsoft pledges $500M to tackle Seattle housing crisis
Microsoft says it will devote $500 million to address a problem its own success helped create: the severe need for affordable housing in the Seattle area
3:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Officers acquitted of Laquan McDonald cover-up
A judge has acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald
3:20PM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Slain mayor lies in state at Solidarity museum in Poland
The slain mayor of the city of Gdansk is laying in state at a museum devoted to Poland's pro-democracy Solidarity movement
4:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
Italy's Berlusconi rebounds again to run for EU parliament
Silvio Berlusconi is back, again, running in European Parliament elections after a court ruled he could once again hold political office
3:51PM ( 1 hour ago )
Britain's Prince Philip, queen's husband, in car accident
Buckingham Palace: Prince Philip, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, uninjured after car accident
2:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
Federal workers caught in the middle apply for unemployment
Tens of thousands of federal workers and their families have been forced to turn to programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps to stay afloat during the government shutdown
5:20PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Was there collusion? Giuliani contradicts previous stance
President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani now says he "never said there was no collusion" between Russia and members of Trump's 2016 White House campaign
5:17PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Judge acquits 3 Chicago officers of Laquan McDonald cover-up
A judge has acquitted three Chicago police officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald
5:14PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Trump says US will develop space-based missile defense
Moving to protect the U.S. from advanced missile threats from China and Russia, Trump is laying out plans for a new array of space-based systems
5:08PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Schiff berates Trump for disclosing warzone trip
House intelligence committee chairman: Trump disclosing Pelosi's warzone trip 'completely and utterly irresponsible in every way'
5:03PM ( 25 minutes ago )