Colombia investigates car bomb explosion at military base near Venezuela border

A car bomb explosion struck a military base near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, injuring 36 people.

Two explosions took place on Tuesday at a base used by the 30th Army Brigade in the north eastern city of Cucuta, the defence ministry said, after two men drove a white Toyota truck onto the site after passing themselves off as officials.

“We reject and repudiate this vile and terrorist act which sought to attack the soldiers of Colombia,” said Defence Minister Diego Molano, adding that three people suffered serious injuries.

Officials blamed the attack on members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s last recognised armed group, but Molano said Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents may also have been involved.

FARC dissidents rejected a 2016 peace deal that ended the group’s part in the armed conflict in Colombia, which has left 260,000 dead and millions displaced. Colombian government officials and the army have said some 2,500 to 3,000 FARC dissidents remain throughout the country.

The United States embassy in Bogota said late on Tuesday that a small number of US military personnel were on the base for training with a Colombian unit when the explosions occurred, but that no serious injuries were reported among US forces.

Colombian president Ivan Duque told reporters that his government would offer a $135,000 reward to find those responsible for the blasts in Cucuta. A special investigative group had also been set up to look into what happened, he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report in March that Colombia had seen a resurgence of violence in 2020, as at least five conflicts with armed groups were ongoing.

The group said 389 people were killed by explosive devices last year, the highest number since 2016.

More than 27,000 people were displaced across Colombia in the first quarter of 2021, the country’s human rights ombudsman said in April, a jump of 177 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

The ombudsman said people were forced from their homes amid threats, murders, forced recruitment by armed gangs and clashes between armed groups.