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Peru official: car bombing tied to Bush visit

LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Peru's interior minister Thursday tied a deadly car bombing near the U.S. Embassy to this weekend's visit by U.S. President George Bush and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"There's no doubt this is connected to the events of Sept. 11 and the presence of President Bush," said Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi, adding the message of the bombing was for the American president not Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.

"After Sept. 11 many, many terrorists groups have been activated all over the world," the interior minister said. "So, this is in direct relation with those international events."

Wednesday night's attack near the embassy killed nine people, wounding many others, and gutting parts of a shopping complex.

Bush, who is due in Peru Saturday as part of a four-day Latin American trip, said the explosion would not deter his visit.

"Two-bit terrorists aren't going to prevent me from doing what we need to do and that is to promote our friendship in the hemisphere," Bush said Thursday. "Our neighborhood is important to us. Peru is an important country. You bet I'm going."

Senior officials and Secret Service sources said they were fully confident in the security arrangements in place for the president's visit, but added that said a new round of consultations with Peruvian officials was under way because of the bombing. At least 7,000 Peruvian security personnel will be on duty during Bush's visit, according to Peru's interior minister.

Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, told reporters traveling with Bush to El Paso, Texas, "Our security people made an assessment and nothing has been brought to our attention that would make us change our plans."

There have been no claims of responsibility for the explosion, but before leaving for Texas, Bush indicated the United States had information about who was responsible.

"We might have an idea," Bush said in a brief conversation with CNN's John King in the Oval Office after a meeting with Vice President Cheney. "They have been around before."

Senior administration officials said Bush was speaking of a preliminary belief that the left-wing Shining Path guerrilla movement was responsible for the attack.

Peruvian officials say they foiled a planned Shining Path attack on the Lima embassy late last year, and U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a resurgence of the group, which scarred Peru in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Shining Path -- formed in the 1960s -- has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

As for Bush's statements about responsibility, a senior official closely monitoring the developments in Lima said of the Shining Path: "We think it was them. Obviously, when a bomb goes off in the middle of the night we have to wait for more investigation. No one has claimed responsibility. But we have been monitoring them, and it fits with past performance and the short list of people who behave this way."




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