© Reuters. A soldier patrols around a military battalion where a car bomb exploded, according to authorities, in Cúcuta, Colombia, on June 15, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer
By Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTÁ (Reuters) – A car bomb blast at a military base in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta injured 36 people on Tuesday, the defense minister said, blaming the attack on left-wing rebels.
The explosion occurred at a base used by the 30th Army Brigade in the northeastern city near the border with Venezuela.
“We reject and repudiate this vile and terrorist act that was intended to attack the soldiers of Colombia,” Defense Minister Diego Molano told reporters. “Thirty-six people were injured. Three of them with some degree of severity.”
One of the injured was operated on, Molano said, and 29 are hospitalized.
Two men drove a white Toyota pickup to the base after posing as officials, he said, adding that there were two explosions.
Despite a 2016 peace agreement with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian army continues to fight against guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN), criminal gangs and former members of the FARC that reject the agreement.
The ELN, FARC dissidents and criminal gangs are present in the sometimes restless province of Norte de Santander (MC :), where the 30th Brigade operates.
“The initial hypothesis is that the ELN is behind this insane and vile act,” Molano said. “The participation of FARC dissidents is also being investigated.”
The number of injuries could have been higher, but most of the staff were in pre-trial isolation due to the coronavirus, a senior official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed a white destroyed vehicle on fire.
President Iván Duque said on Twitter that he would travel to Cúcuta to meet with military leaders and local authorities.
Videos on social media showed what appeared to be US military personnel at the base after the attack. Dozens of US advisers are stationed in Colombia, but the US military’s Southern Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The government blamed FARC dissidents for a March car bomb attack in Cauca province that injured more than 40 people.
A 2019 ELN car bomb attack on Bogotá’s police academy killed 22 people and ended the incipient peace talks between the group and the government.
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