Bomb outside disco kills at least 10 in Colombia

Officials blame attack on leftist guerrillas

September 29, 2003|By T. Christian Miller | T. Christian Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BOGOTA, Colombia - A motorcycle carrying a bomb exploded in a nightclub district in a war-torn region in southern Colombia early yesterday, killing at least 10 people and wounding more than 50.

Military authorities blamed the 3 a.m. blast in the regional capital of Florencia on leftist guerrillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country's largest rebel group. The rebels issued no immediate statement on the attack.

The bombing was the worst in Colombia since February, when a suspected FARC bomb planted in a house exploded during a police raid, leveling a neighborhood and killing 15 people.

"I am very sad and depressed by this deplorable act," said Florencia Mayor Alvaro Pacheco. `'It's a lamentable act for civil society."

The bomb exploded while two police officers were inspecting the motorcycle, which was parked in a street crowded with clubgoers.

The blast killed the two officers and two other police officers working as security guards. At least two children, ages 9 and 15, were among the dead.

Authorities estimated that the motorcycle had been packed with about 10 pounds of explosives, which were detonated by remote control.

"Although the explosive wasn't powerful, it caused a lot of casualties because it was placed in front of a disco, which a lot of people were exiting," said army Gen. Luis Ardila.

The bombing was apparently part of a wave of rebel attacks against civilian targets in the past month that seem intended to undermine President Alvaro Uribe, who has claimed in recent months that the Colombian military is gaining ground in the nation's 39-year-old internal conflict.

The attack occurred on the eve of Uribe's visit to the United States and a month before a nationwide referendum on government reforms that Uribe has placed at the center of his agenda.

Since Uribe's election in May, the military has stepped up attacks against the guerrillas, relying on the help of U.S. intelligence and U.S.-trained battalions originally intended to combat narcotics.

The offensive has resulted in increased rebel desertions, captures and deaths, but the guerrillas have responded by planting bombs in cars, on bicycles and even on animals.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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