Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Bogota steps up security measures after ‘FARC’ assassination attempt on minister

Bogota authorities tightened security measures Tuesday following a bombing that targeted a former minister, leaving five people dead and 39 injured.

The head of Bogota’s police General Luis Eduardo Martinez attributed the attacks targeting former Interior Minister Fernando Londoño to the FARC. Authorities have confirmed that the conservative politician has been subjected to threats from Colombia’s largest guerrilla group in the past due to his outspoken conservative views, his alliance with former President Alvaro Uribe and his current work as a radio host.

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“We cannot say who the author is, but the former minister had threats from the FARC,” said Andres Villamizar, the director of the National Protection Unit, who said the threats were extracted from computers belonging to the FARC. “It talked about a bomb being planted with magnets on the side door of the vehicle and this explains the sudden death of [Londoño’s] bodyguard. It is a type [of attack] we’ve never seen.”

Initial reports indicated that the bomb was detonated in a bus on the corner of Caracas Avenue and 74th Street. This is contrary to reports from one of Londoño’s bodyguards that two men on a motorcycle approached the vehicle, one of whom placed the explosive device on the hood of the politician’s armored car. Police are analyzing footage from a security camera of the man who was reportedly wearing a white coat and wig.

Hours after the attack that occurred in the north of the city, local authorities prohibited passengers on motorbikes. Residents will also not be able to use moving vans in the city without police permission. Universities and high schools in Colombia’s capital were closed until further notice.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro met in the presidential palace to discuss the security situation. Both fiercely condemned the attack.

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“I condemn this attack in the strongest terms. We do not understand what the purpose was, but rest assured that the government is not going to be derailed by these terrorist acts. We will continue our course and we will do all the investigation necessary to find the whereabouts of those responsible for this attack,” Santos said in an official press release.

Petro called on Bogota citizens to remain calm and report all suspicious activity to the authorities. “Actions of hatred should not and cannot dominate Bogota,” the mayor said on Twitter.

The mood is understandably tense in Colombia’s capital following the attack. An explosive device in a parked car near Bogota police headquarters was defused hours before the fatal incident in the city’s financial district.

“People are tense and scared. It’s been a long time since Bogotanos felt fear on their streets,” Richard Emblin, editor in chief of Bogota-based monthly The City Paper told Colombia Reports.

Londoño suffered a lacerated lung and a ruptured eardrum in the attack, according to local media.

Authorities are offering a reward of $56,470 for the whereabouts of those responsible for the attack.

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The former minister was a magnet for controversy during his political career. He was disqualified from holding public office for 15 years in 2004 when he was found guilty of abusing his position of power to favor Recchi, an Italian consortium that served as his legal representation. In 2007, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the restitution of over $5 million worth of illegally acquired shares Londoño had obtained by submitting false certification that he was employed by gas distribution holding company, Invercolsa.

From Colombia Reports

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