Two dead and 37 hurt in Halloween bombing
on 01/11/2012 20:29:12
The two dead were suspected members of a drug-trafficking band allied with rebels from the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, said regional police chief Colonel Nelson Ramirez.
The pair were carrying the suitcase on a bicycle two blocks from the central square of Pradera, in Valle del Cauca state, where more than 5,000 children had gathered, said town security chief Cesar Leyton. The bomb apparently went off prematurely.
He said seven of the injured were taken to hospital, including the two boys, aged nine and 11, who suffered head injuries and were rushed to the regional capital of Cali. Fourteen children were reported injured in total.
"It was chaos, horrible," said Alba Nelly, a 45-year-old housewife who was slightly hurt in the blast, which struck as she sat by her door diagonal to the square with her 22-year-old paraplegic daughter.
"We were celebrating Halloween and my daughter was giving out candy to people who passed by," she told The Associated Press by phone.
Col Ramirez speculated that the bomb's intended target was Pradera's police station, which is a block from where it exploded. He said such bombs are typically triggered by mobile phones.
Pradera, a town of 60,000 people, is located in an area of traditionally strong Farc influence, where security forces are often attacked.
For years Farc sought a military withdrawal from the area in order to negotiate a prisoner swap. But successive governments refused.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos formally inaugurated peace talks with Farc on October 18 in Norway, seeking to end a stubborn nearly half-century conflict which claims at least 3,000 lives a year.
The talks are to resume in mid-November in Cuba. The government has refused to agree to a ceasefire or a safe haven, which it granted during the last attempt to negotiate peace from 1999-2002.