Seven police officers dead in string of weekend attacks in Colombia

World Today

Security forces in the Colombian port city of Barranquilla are on high alert. Weekend bombings have killed at least seven policemen and wounded dozens more.

Rebel group ELN – the National Liberation Army – has claimed responsibility for at least one of the three attacks.

CGTN’s Michelle Bugue reports.

Before dawn on Sunday, attackers targeted the city of Barranquilla, Colombia for the second time in less than 24 hours. A bomb detonated at a police station, injuring six people. Two policemen were killed in a separate bombing in Bolivar Province.

A day earlier on Saturday, also in Barranquilla, an initial attack killed five officers and wounded 40 others.

“This cowardice and treacherous attack will not go unpunished,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the country. “More so, with effective and overwhelming police work, with the help of prosecutor’s office, the author of the attack has been captured.”

A 31-year-old suspect has been arrested in connection with the first attack, while an $18,000 reward is being offered to anyone with information on other attackers.

Some authorities suspect that narcotraffickers carried out the bombings, in retaliation for a crackdown on organized crime. On Sunday, however, Barranquilla’s police chief said he suspects ELN guerillas are behind the incidents, and later in the day the group issued a statement claiming responsibility for the first attack.

President Santos said additional security measures are being taken.

“No one will bow down to this terrorism… cowardice acts like these will give us more strength to fight these delinquents.”

Just two weeks before Barranquilla will hold its famous carnival, expected to draw up to 200,000 visitors, residents are shaken.

”That was a very strong explosion, and I got up and ran to see what happened and when I came to the police station it was so ugly,” one witness recounted. “There were people with no legs or arms.”

Leaders of the ELN guerilla group that operates in the region are currently negotiating with the Colombian government in Ecuador to end 50 years of fighting. Right-wing paramilitary groups are also known to operate in the region.