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Car bomb outside U.S. Embassy in Peru kills 9

Bush trip to South American country will go on

Debris litters the street near the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, after a car bomb exploded, killing at least nine people.
Debris litters the street near the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, after a car bomb exploded, killing at least nine people.  

LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- A deadly car bombing near the U.S. Embassy in Lima hasn't deterred President Bush from his planned visit to Peru.

Police searched for clues Thursday after at least nine people were killed and 12 others injured when a car blew up Wednesday night in front of a bank in a shopping center about four blocks from the embassy. Two embassy security guards, at least one police officer and a boy skating in the shopping center's parking lot were among those killed in the blast.

Bush, who leaves Thursday on a four-day Latin American trip, said the explosion would not affect his itinerary.

"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. "Our neighborhood is important to us. Peru is an important country. You bet I'm going."

Leftist guerrilla group suspected

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, but Bush indicated the United States had information about who was behind the blast.

At least nine people were killed after a car bomb exploded in a shopping center near the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. Journalist Claudia Cisneros reports (March 21)

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"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 Dick 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 said they foiled a planned Shining Path attack on the Lima embassy last year, and U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a resurgence of the group, which was active in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s.

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

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. ... But we have been monitoring them, and it fits with past performance and the short list of people who behave this way."

Embassy open for business

State Department spokeswoman Susan Pittman said the embassy would be open Thursday, although a large area around it was closed off as a crime scene. Embassy personnel said people with nonemergency business should put it off until another day, Pittman noted.

The explosion left large holes in the street, heavily damaging a bank and breaking windows in neighboring buildings, including a nearby hotel. No injuries were reported in the hotel, and no damage was reported to the embassy.

Peruvian Vice President Raul Diez Canseco said the government condemns and rejects acts of terrorism and will make every effort to find those responsible. He said the military has been put on high alert.

President Alejandro Toledo was attending a U.N.-sponsored conference in Mexico when the blast occurred, but he cut the trip short. The vice president is acting president until Toledo's return.

Journalist Claudia Cisneros contributed to this report.


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