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Deadly bomb blast rocks Colombian mall

June 18, 2017

A bomb blast at a mall in the Colombian capital Bogota has killed at least three and wounded nine more. Officials described it as a "terrorist attack" but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Kolumbien Bogota Anschlag auf Einkaufszentrum
Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. Arboleda

A homemade bomb located in a women's bathroom rocked a popular shopping center in Bogota on Saturday, killing at least three women and wounded nine other people, Colombian officials said.

The explosion tore through the second floor bathroom in the Centro Andino Mall at around 5:00 p.m. local time (2200 GMT) as the shopping center was packed with shoppers ahead of Father's Day.

Police said a powerful explosive, possibly made of ammonium nitrate, caused the blast.

The building was evacuated as firefighters, ambulances and police arrived on the scene, which is popular with locals and tourists for its bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

French woman among victims

The mayor of the Colombian capital, Enrique Penalosa, said that two Colombian women, aged 27 and 31, as well as a French woman, aged 23, died in the attack. A 48-year-old French woman was also wounded in the blast.

The deceased French woman had spent six months working as a volunteer at a local school in a poor neighborhood and was preparing to return to France in the coming days along with her mother who was with her in Bogota.

Mayor Penalosa said authorities could not yet confirm "which group could be responsible" for the blast, but said it was "clearly a cowardly terrorist attack."

Kolumbien Bogota
Colombian President Santos (center) condemned the attack but did not speculate on which group carried it outImage: Reuters/J.Saldarriaga

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited the mall late on Saturday, where he strongly condemned the attack, but declined to speculate on what group was behind it.

He said he will meet with top security advisers on Sunday before leaving for a scheduled trip to Europe, including a visit to France.

"The best answer to cowardly terrorism is to not let it unnerve us," he said. "The French know perfectly how to respond to these terrorist attacks and we Colombians too have the will not to let ourselves be intimidated."

Rebel groups condemn attack

The leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), the last guerrilla group still active in Colombia, was quick to condemn the attack.

The group, which has been in peace talks with the government, wrote on its Twitter account that it "condemns this deplorable incident" and noting that the attack was "against civilians."

Although the group claimed responsibility for a bombing in February near a bullring in Bogota that killed one police officer and wounded 20 other people, the group said it does not target civilians.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), one of the largest rebel groups which is in the process of disarming after signing a peace agreement last year, also denied its involvement in Saturday's blast.

"Solidarity with today's victims in Bogota. Such an act could only be committed by those who want to block the roads to peace and reconciliation," FARC leader Rodrigo Londono wrote on Twitter.

Colombia is still grappling with over half a century of conflict between guerrilla fighters, paramilitary groups and state forces, leaving at least 260,000 dead, 60,000 missing and 7.1 million displaced.

The conflict frequently led to deadly terrorist attacks in Bogota in the past, but have had largely stopped in recent years.

rs/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)