Bomb blast leaves 7 dead, 52 injured in Colombia

Other News Materials 15 August 2008 20:40 (UTC +04:00)

A bomb allegedly detonated by leftist rebels killed seven people and injured 52 others in the Colombian town of Ituango, provincial authorities said Friday, reported dpa.
The bomb was set off by alleged members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) late Thursday in the town's main square, said Luis Alfredo Ramos, governor of the north-western Colombian province of Antioquia.

The square was full of people attending a party there at the time.

Ramos said 17 of the injured were in serious condition and had been taken to hospitals in provincial capital Medellin early Friday.

No one had claimed responsibility for the attack by Friday, but police said a man known as "El Pajaro" (the bird) was arrested soon after the blast. He is an alleged member of FARC and is suspected of planting the bomb.

Colombian Army Commander, General Mario Montoya, said reinforcements were sent to Ituango early Friday, and expressed no doubt that FARC was behind the attack.

"They are out of a political discourse, and that is why they turn to terrorism," Montoya said.

Colombian authorities have blamed FARC for several bomb attacks in recent weeks, in Bogota and elsewhere in the country. They believe the attacks are a response to the refusal of store owners to give into extortion demands.

FARC have been fighting the Colombian state since 1964. They are thought to have been considerably weakened in recent years, due to the relentless action of the country's security forces under conservative President Alvaro Uribe.

The leftist rebel group was believed to have some 18,000 men and women in 2002, when they controlled substantial areas in the remote parts of the Andean country. However, they currently appear to have been pushed back into the mountains and the jungle, with an estimated 9,000 fighters.

In recent months, they lost three of the members of their seven- member leadership, including founder and boss Manuel Marulanda.

The group's most high-profile hostage, former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, was freed alongside 14 other hostages by Colombia's security forces in a non-violent operation last month.