News

Shopping Center Blast in Colombia Kills 3 and Injures 9

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A strong explosion rocked one of the busiest shopping centers in Colombia’s capital on Saturday, killing three people and injuring nine others, the authorities there said.

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa of Bogotá condemned what he called a “cowardly terrorist bombing” at the upscale Centro Andino, a shopping center located in the heart of the city’s tourist district.

Witnesses were evacuated from movie theaters and stores after the blast, which they said had occurred in a second-floor bathroom. Ambulances and fire trucks responded to the scene, and the injured were taken to a hospital.

Mayor Peñalosa said one of the victims, a 23-year-old Frenchwoman, had been volunteering in a poor neighborhood in Colombia for the past six months, and was preparing to return to France.

Authorities immediately focused on the country’s largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or E.L.N., which in February claimed responsibility for a bombing near a bullring in Bogotá that killed one police officer and injured at least 20 other people.

Last year, the country’s government reached a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, which was much bigger than the E.L.N. The E.L.N. is currently engaged in peace talks, but has so far refused to lay down its weapons. Some analysts say an increase in violence in Colombian cities is tied to the group’s desire to wrest concessions from the government at the negotiating table.

As the country’s long-running conflict has wound down, Bogotá has seen an improvement in security over the past decade. But, as residents have let down their guard, the capital remains vulnerable to attack.

Still, the Centro Andino would seem to be a difficult target. All vehicles entering the shopping center’s parking garage are screened by bomb-sniffing dogs, and security guards are present throughout the mall.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia ordered the head of the national police to lead the investigation, and keep to him regularly updated. In a message posted on Twitter, Mr. Santos expressed his solidarity with the victims.

Comments are closed.