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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Car Explosion Kills 12 in Columbia

Aired April 7, 2002 - 09:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, the news we've been talking about, just in the past 30 minutes or so is a car bomb exploding in the entertainment district of a provincial capitol killing at least 12 people we are told and wounding more than 60 others. Via Vicencio (ph) is about 45 miles southeast of Bogota, Columbia, and that's where CNN's Carl Penhall is on the phone. CNN's Karl Penhaul, he's on the phone with us to tell us more about what's happening. Carl, what can you tell us.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, details about the people behind this attack is still sketchy. The police haven't yet pointed the finger at any particular one of Columbia's armed groups. But as you say, the police authorities are saying so far there are 12 people dead, and they said dozens injured. The first estimates were 25 injured, but the toll of injuries has actually risen quite significantly, and is now beyond 60.

The bomb exploded, people are talking, eyewitnesses are talking about two explosions, almost simultaneously, around 1:30 this morning. This is more or less the time that a number of the discotheques and the restaurants were emptying out, and so it seems to be designed there to have caused maximum damage at a key time of the nightlife in the city of Via Vicencio.

Like you say, Via Vicencio is about a two-hour drive from the capitol of Bogota and is a major provincial center, about 350,000 inhabitants. Unofficially so far, without actually confirming, police are suggesting this may be the work of leftist rebels, of particularly of the (inaudible) guerrilla group.

In and around this city, a number of guerrilla units operate, and so those are being looked on as perhaps some of the first suspects, but by no means confirmed at this stage. The town's mayor has offered $7 million now for information leading to the capture of at least to uncover who was behind the attack, and so during the day the investigations are going to be developing to really see, you know, what was behind this.

PHILLIPS: Carl, can you give us any more background on this rebel group? Obviously, it's suspected. The police are suspecting that it's this main rebel group that was possibly behind this explosion. We're not saying that it is, but can you give us a little background behind this leftist rebel group and it's cause, what it claims it's - PENHAUL: Sure, yes. As far as guerrilla groups, it's Columbia's largest guerrilla group and has about 17,000 fighters, according to official estimates. They've been fighting now since the mid-1960s, and is now one of the largest surviving of the 1960s communist guerrilla groups in Latin America.

They're fighting essentially to topple the state, to overthrow the state and set up kind of some socialist regime. When the current president, President Andres Pastrana took office almost four years ago now, he opened peace talks with the guerrillas and those peace talks rumbled on with a number of crises but generally remained intact these talks until February the 20th.

Then the peace process broke down entirely and since then, what we've seen is a scaling up of guerrilla sabotage attacks, particularly on energy infrastructure around the country. But if confirmed that this is a guerrilla attack, it will certainly be one of the worst carried out by the guerrillas since the peace process broke down, and at this stage, police authorities are saying, you know, that this was an indiscriminate act of terrorism, particularly because as far as we understand so far, the majority of the dead were certainly civilians.

PHILLIPS: CNN's Karl Penhaul on the phone with us there from Bogota, Columbia, thank you so much. Once again, talking about the deadly bombing in the provincial capitol Via Vicencio there, just 45 miles southeast of Bogota, Columbia, a car exploding in this entertainment district, killing at least 12 people and wounding about 60 others.

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