BOGOTA: Colombian authorities had been scrambling to establish who was behind a brazen automobile bombing at a police academy in Bogota that has rattled residents and raised robust questions on lingering safety threats within the wake of a peace take care of the nation’s largest insurgent group.

In a single day, the loss of life toll from the Thursday morning bombing greater than doubled to 21, making it the deadliest assault in Colombia in over a decade.

It proved particularly unsettling as a result of the goal, the General Santander college, is likely one of the most protected installations within the capital and indications it could have been the results of a suicide bombing – one thing unprecedented in a long time of political violence within the Andean nation.

President Ivan Duque, visiting the academy within the aftermath, was cautious to not attribute blame to any armed group even whereas condemning what he known as a “depressing” terrorist act that recalled a few of bloodiest chapters of Colombia’s current previous.

“The terrorists wish to intimidate us as a society and assault the state,” Duque mentioned in a televised tackle by which he declared three days of mourning. “Colombia will show that it’s a robust state, united and will not break within the face of the dementia of those aggressions.”

Amongst these killed was a top-of-class feminine cadet from Ecuador, whereas two visiting college students from Panama had been amongst these injured

With the assistance of safety cameras, authorities had been fast to establish the suspected bomber as a 56-year-old man with no legal document named Jose Aldemar Rojas. He died within the assault.

Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez mentioned Rojas drove a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 kilos) of pentolite explosive previous a safety checkpoint and onto the varsity’s leafy campus, the place a start-of-the-year honor ceremony had simply completed.

There have been reviews, up to now unconfirmed, that when bomb-sniffing canines detected the explosives the motive force received nervous and floored the automobile previous the barrier and onto the campus, the place it exploded moments later in entrance of a purple tile-roofed dormitory for feminine cadets.

Movies shot on cellphones present panicked officers hauling injured colleagues on stretchers with particles and physique components strewn in entrance the skeletal metal stays of the still-burning truck.

Little is understood about Rojas. Data present he purchased the automobile final yr and had it inspected six months in the past within the japanese metropolis of Arauca, close to the border with Venezuela.

The identical risky space is a stronghold of the Nationwide Liberation Military, or ELN, the nation’s final remaining insurgent group following a 2016 accord between the federal government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that noticed some 7,000 rebels disarm.

Investigators are reportedly trying into Rojas’ doable ties with the insurgent group after reviews – up to now unconfirmed – that he was a longtime explosives professional for an ELN cell who glided by the alias Mocho Kiko.

The ELN has been stepping up its assaults on police targets and oil infrastructure amid a standoff with the conservative Duque authorities over stalled peace talks. A yr in the past, the group claimed accountability for the bombing of a police station within the coastal metropolis of Barranquilla that left 5 officers useless.

However till now the Cuban-inspired group, which is believed to have round 1,500 guerrilla fighters, has by no means been succesful or a lot enthusiastic about finishing up such a excessive profile act of violence. Thursday’s assault was the deadliest since a 2003 automobile bombing in opposition to the elite Bogota social membership El Nogal that left 36 useless, an incident that hardened Colombians’ resolve in opposition to the FARC.

Duque has demanded the ELN stop all assaults and kidnappings as a situation for restarting the talks and has condemned Venezuela and Cuba for allegedly offering a protected haven for insurgent leaders at the same time as their troops proceed to sow violence in Colombia.

For many years, residents of Bogota lived in concern of being caught in a bombing by leftist rebels or Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel.

However as Colombia’s battle has wound down, assaults have fallen to traditionally low ranges and residents in flip have lowered their guard, one thing that magnified the shock at Thursday’s carnage.

“That is the utmost influence any terrorist act may have,” mentioned Jorge Restrepo, director of the Battle Evaluation Useful resource Heart.

Restrepo mentioned he expects the assault to be a defining second for Duque, who was elected final yr on a regulation and order platform extremely essential of his predecessor’s peacemaking however since taking workplace has taken a extra reasonable stance.

Amid the tragedy there was an outpouring of solidary.

Dozens of residents stood in line at 4 assortment factors all through town to donate blood to deal with the greater than 70 victims.

Lorena Mora, 25, mentioned she spent two anguishing hours looking for out what occurred to her brother, who entered the police college seven months in the past. She ultimately discovered him on the police hospital the place many of the injured officers had been transported. She mentioned he was nonetheless surprised however in any other case nicely, apart from a sprained knee.

“After I managed to get inside and see him,” she mentioned, “I felt on the spot peace.”


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