10 Dead in Car Bombing at Police Academy in Colombia’s Bogota

The chief prosecutor said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas carried out the attack.

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World
3 min read
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of the car bombing  in Bogota, Colombia.
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At least 10 people were killed and dozens more injured in a car bombing at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia's capital on Thursday, 17 January, recalling the high-profile attacks seen during the bloodiest chapters of the country's drug-fuelled guerrilla conflict.

The scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the immediate aftermath of the mid-morning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in the capital in years.

Videos circulating on social media show panicked police officers carrying injured colleagues on stretchers along a road strewn with debris and body parts.

In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the truck used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.

Flames rise from a deadly car bombing at a police academy in Bogota, Colombia, on 17 January.
Flames rise from a deadly car bombing at a police academy in Bogota, Colombia, on 17 January.
(Photo: AP) 

President Ivan Duque rushed back to the capital with his top military advisors from a visit to a western state to oversee the police investigation.

Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas, driving a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 pounds) of pentolite, carried out the attack. He said the car had its last official mechanical revision some six months ago in the eastern state of Arauca, along the border with Venezuela.

"This is an attack not only against the young, the security forces or the police. It's an attack against society," Duque said in a brief statement after surveying the blast scene. "This demented terrorist act will not go unpunished."

The Defence Ministry said 10 people were killed and another 66 injured. Among the dead were a Panamanian and an Ecuadorian national.
Family members of victims  gather outside the entrance to the General Santander police academy where the bombing took place.
Family members of victims gather outside the entrance to the General Santander police academy where the bombing took place.
(Photo: AP) 

Rafael Trujillo said he was delivering a care package to his son Gerson, who entered the school just two days ago, when he was stopped in his tracks by the blast that destroyed windows in apartment buildings as far as four blocks away.

"I'm sad and very worried because I don't have any information about my son," said Trujillo, standing outside the facility, where police officers had set up a taped perimeter as forensic specialists surveyed the blast site.

There were unconfirmed reports based on leaked recordings of phone conversations of officers on the scene that the driver rammed past the checkpoint as if carrying out a suicide attack.

Health authorities in Bogota appealed for residents to donate blood at one of four collection points in the capital to help treat those injured, the majority of whom were rushed to a police hospital.

While no armed group claimed responsibility, attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been stepping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a standoff with the conservative Duque over how to re-start stalled peace talks.

Several foreign leaders condemned the attack, as did the former commanders of the disbanded FARC.

The United Nations peace mission in Colombia called it "an unacceptable criminal act which goes against the efforts the country is making to steer away from the violence, and work... to build a more prosperous and peaceful future."

(This story has been edited for length.)

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