Colombian authorities have been scrambling to determine who was behind a brazen automobile bombing at a police academy in Bogota that has rattled residents and raised questions on lingering safety threats within the wake of a peace cope with 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 years.

It proved particularly unsettling as a result of the goal, the Basic Santander faculty, is without doubt 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 a “depressing” terrorist act that recalled a few of bloodiest chapters of Colombia’s current previous.

“The terrorists need to intimidate us as a society and assault the state,” Duque mentioned in a televised deal with during which he declared three days of mourning.

A candlelight vigil to honour victims of the blast was held Thursday night time. (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

“Colombia will display that it’s a sturdy 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 have been amongst these injured.

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Suspected bomber recognized

With the assistance of safety cameras, authorities have been fast to determine the suspected bomber as a 56-year-old man, Jose Aldemar Rojas, with no prison file. He died within the assault.

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

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

Police and safety personnel work on the scene of the explosion. (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

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 12 months and had it inspected six months in the past within the japanese metropolis of Arauca, close to the border with Venezuela.

The identical unstable space is a stronghold of the Nationwide Liberation Military (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.

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Investigators are reportedly wanting into Rojas’s attainable ties with the insurgent group after experiences — to date 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 12 months in the past, the group claimed duty 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 some 1,500 guerrilla fighters, has by no means been succesful or a lot eager about finishing up such a high-profile act of violence. Thursday’s assault was the deadliest since a 2003 automobile bombing towards the elite Bogota social membership El Nogal that left 36 useless, an incident that hardened Colombians’ resolve towards the FARC.

Timing of assault means ‘most affect’

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 whilst 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.

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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 affect any terrorist act may have,” mentioned Jorge Restrepo, director of the Battle Evaluation Useful resource Heart.

On this picture supplied by army personnel, flames rise from the positioning of the bombing. (The Related Press)

Restrepo mentioned he expects the assault to be a defining second for Duque, who was elected final 12 months on a legislation and order platform extremely important of his predecessor’s peacemaking however since taking workplace has taken a extra average stance.

Amid the tragedy, dozens of residents stood in line at 4 assortment factors all through town to donate blood to deal with the greater than 70 victims. Others gathered at a vigil Thursday night time close to the positioning of the blast.

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

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

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