Tags: New | Wave | Car | Bombings | Colombia

New Wave of Car Bombings in Colombia

Friday, 25 May 2001 12:00 AM

Many in Colombia's cities are fearing another wave of car bomb attacks similar to that which occurred in the early 1990s during the reign of terror of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Thursday's bombing attempt in Barrancabermeja in northern Colombia targeted a school where more than 100 students were attending. Barrancabermeja is squarely in the center of ELN guerrilla territory.

No one has yet claimed blame for the most recent bombings in Bogota. Like Barrancabermeja, they were located close to educational centers; both bombs exploded close to La Universidad Nacional while several more that were close by were deactivated. They followed anonymous phone calls the day before to the university that they would be targeted.

In addition to the university, other potential targets in the zone could be the nearby neighborhoods, Nicolas de Federman, Pablo VI and Rafael Nunez, all with large military populations because of their proximity to the Ministry of Defense.

The bombing campaign takes place in the middle of a crisis in peace talks with the guerrillas and a stepped-up government campaign against paramilitaries. The Colombian government is taking a hard line against the paramilitaries, with the Peace Commission charged with creating a plan to combat them.

President Andres Pastrana and Police General Luis Ernesto Gilibert were quick to jump to the conclusion that a criminal group by the name of La Terraza carried out the attacks in Medellin on May 17, but evidence collected by the newspaper El Espectador points to the Comandantes Armados del Pueblo of the ELN. With the most skilled explosives unit in the zone, it is a much more likely group than the criminal group La Terraza, and has committed the vast majority of bombing attempts in the last four years.

This would not be the first time that the government has attempted to overlook guerrilla atrocities in achieving peace. Although news arrives daily to the peace commission of the deaths of hostages held by the guerrillas, many are intentionally covered up in the interest of continuing dialogue.

The ELN has recently suffered major losses against the paramilitaries, especially in their home base of Serrania de San Lucas, an area that was to become a second demilitarized zone for the ELN, to give the ELN an area under their control in the same way that the FARC was granted a large zone around San Vicente de Caguan at the beginning of the peace process in 1998.

The situation for the ELN has become so bad that it has called in the FARC to aid it in the battle against the paramilitaries, which continue their advance despite combined military and guerrilla offenses against them. Is it possible that the ELN is lashing out at the government once again for its failure to create a distension zone and roll back the paramilitaries? Even if it is true, the Colombian government may not want to reveal it.

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Many in Colombia's cities are fearing another wave of car bomb attacks similar to that which occurred in the early 1990s during the reign of terror of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thursday's bombing attempt in Barrancabermeja in northern Colombia targeted a school...
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2001-00-25
Friday, 25 May 2001 12:00 AM
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