Colombia: 21 dead, 68 wounded by bomb attacks at the Bogota police academy

The attack on the police academy in Bogotá left 21 dead and 68 wounded on Thursday, making it the deadliest attack since 2003 in the capital of Colombia struggling to come out of more than half a century. century of armed conflict.

President Ivan Duque has declared a three-day national mourning after the car bomb attack at the main police academy in the south of the capital.

"Unfortunately, the preliminary assessment is 21 dead, including the author of the facts, and 68 wounded," the police said Thursday evening in a statement stating that 58 wounded were out of hospital. The previous official record was 11 dead and 65 wounded.

The attack has been described as a "miserable act of terrorism" by the head of state, who has strengthened the fight against drug trafficking and against the National Liberation Army (ELN) last week since he came to power. guerrilla fighters from Colombia.

The author of the attack was identified as José Aldemar Rojas Rodriguez. He arrived at 9.30 am (2.30 pm GMT) in the General de Francisco de Paula Santander school, driving in a gray van loaded with 80 kilos of pentolith, a powerful explosive, according to the Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez.

This man with Colombian nationality died during the attack and AFP confirmed a source within the floor. The authorities have not said whether it is related to one of the illegal armed groups still active in Colombia, particularly in drug trafficking, since the peace signed in 2016 with the former FARC revolt.

– "Dementia terrorist act" –

"We will not rest until we have arrested and brought to justice the rest of the terrorists involved," Duque said on a television address in the evening, adding that he "ordered three days of national mourning … in honor" the families of the victims.

The explosion came after a ceremony to promote young officers. It was not specified how many police officers were among the victims.

This is the deadliest attack that Bogota has suffered since an attack, including the car bomb attack by the Farc, which left 36 dead, dozens injured on February 7, 2003, in Nogal, a very exclusive club north of the capital.

The public prosecutor said that the vehicle used passed a technical check last July in Arauca, a border section of Venezuela, where the ELN is present.

An army health service employee said on the radio that the car bomb had "suddenly" entered the school, "almost hitting the police and immediately there was the explosion."

A shopkeeper opened her clothing store when the window burst. & # 39; When we looked at school, the sky was gray with smoke. People were running, sirens … It was awful, terrible, it looked like the end of the world, "said 62-year-old Rosalba Jimenez.

– Unanimous convictions –

The attack was unanimously condemned, in particular by the UN office in Colombia, the United States, neighboring Venezuela and the Farc, which expressed solidarity with the victims.

Almost a year ago, on January 29, 2018, the police had been the target of a car bomb attack in Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast (north). Six police officers were killed and 40 wounded. The attack was claimed by the ELN.

In 2017, Bogota, which has eight million inhabitants, was the scene of two other deadly attacks.

One, in June in a shopping mall, had three deaths, including a young Frenchman and several wounded. The authorities attributed it to a left-wing group, the Revolutionary People & # 39; s Movement (MRP).

With about 1800 fighters, the ELN is considered the country's last guerrilla since the disarmament and transformation into political party of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, Marxists) following the agreement signed in 2016 with the previous government.

Although the intensity of the conflict has declined since the agreement with the Farc, Colombia continues to be hit by a war against breeding cases, which has involved guerrillas, paramilitaries and law enforcement agencies over the decades, causing more than eight million victims have fallen between death, missing and moved.