Vehicle bomb kills 8 people at police academy in Bogotá, Colombia

Clay Curtis
January 18, 2019

The explosion took place around 9:30 a.m.at the General Santander police academy in southern Bogotá.

Officials quickly identified the perpetrator as Jose Aldemar Rojas, saying that in the attack, he drove into the academy aboard his 1993 gray Nissan Patrol auto that was loaded with 80 kg of pentolite, a composite high explosive.

According to the statement, Rojas died in the bombing.

As violence has receded in recent years, Colombia has taken off as a tourist destination, with more than three million foreign visitors in 2017, up from one million in 2006.

President Ivan Duque said he was returning to the capital from the west of the country, where he had been attending a security meeting.

A vehicle bomb exploded at a police academy in Bogota on Thursday, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens, authorities said. It is the biggest attack against a police or military facility in Bagota in over a decade. Records show he bought the auto previous year and had it inspected six months ago in the eastern city of Arauca, near the border with Venezuela.

Mr Botero said he had "full evidence" that the bomber - earlier identified as Jose Aldemar Rojas Rodriguez, 56 - has been a member of the ELN for more than 25 years.

There was no word on who might be behind the explosion, but attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been ramping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a standoff with the conservative Duque over how to restart stalled peace talks.

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The FARC political party - formed in the wake of the 2016 peace accord with what was Colombia's largest guerrilla group - condemned the attack.

But until now, the Cuban-inspired group, which is believed to have some 1,500 guerrilla fighters, has never been capable or much interested in carrying out such a high-profile act of violence.

Vehicle bombs were frequent in Colombia during decades of civil war between the state and various leftist rebel groups, as well as in violence involving the Medellin drug cartel led by drug lord Pablo Escobar. That attack was attributed to the People's Revolutionary Movement (MRP), which is thought to have ties to the ELN.

Vowing to "bring to justice" those responsible for the attack, Duque added: "COLOMBIA is sad but will not bow to violence".

Dozens of residents stood in line at four collection points throughout the city to donate blood to treat the victims, 10 of whom remain hospitalized.

Rafael Trujillo said he was delivering a care package to his son Gerson, who entered the school two days ago, when he was stopped in his tracks by the blast a block away from the school's heavily fortified entrance.

But as Colombia's conflict has wound down, security has improved and attacks have become less frequent since the 2016 peace agreement. She eventually found him at the police hospital where most of the injured officers were transported. She said he was still stunned but otherwise well, except for a sprained knee.

"When I managed to get inside and see him", she said, "I felt instant peace".

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