During an emergency visit to the base, Defense Minister Diego Molano described Tuesday’s explosion as a “vile terrorist attack” that targeted Colombian soldiers and sought to injure as many soldiers as possible.
Molano said the National Liberation Army, the largest remaining rebel group in Colombia, was likely behind the attack, although he did not provide any evidence to back up that claim.
He also said dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a group that signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016, may have been involved.
Cúcuta is located on the border with Venezuela and is the capital of the state of Santander Norte, where various criminal groups fight along drug trafficking routes and use the poorly patrolled border with Venezuela to smuggle fuel and weapons.
Last year, a group of US military trainers and advisers from the First Assistance Brigade of the Security Forces spent time at the base that was bombed on Tuesday and some also visited another base located in the city of Tibu.
Videos posted on social media showed dark plumes of smoke rising from the base followed by a loud explosion that smashed windows and destroyed offices.
The explosion comes as anti-government protests appear to subside in Colombia, and protest leaders announced Tuesday that they will suspend marches that have been going on for seven weeks. At least 50 people have died in protests over poverty and growing inequality, which began on April 28.
Molano said Tuesday’s blast occurred shortly after 3 p.m. when men disguised as soldiers drove a white van toward the base.
In 2019, a car bomb detonated by the ELN at a police academy in Bogotá killed 21 people and led the government to end peace talks with the rebel group.