Bomb attacks target police in northern Colombia

Police officers stand guard near the site of a bomb attack at a police station in Barranquilla, Colombia on Jan 28, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOTA (AFP) - A rash of bombings hit police stations in northern Colombia over the weekend, killing seven police and injuring dozens more in what the authorities said appeared to be the work of drug gangs.

The attacks began early on Saturday (Jan 27) in the city of Barranquilla, where five police officers were killed and 41 injured by a bomb that exploded at a police station during the morning roll call.

It was one of the deadliest on security personnel in recent years, casting a pall over preparations for the annual carnival, a major attraction in the bustling Caribbean port city.

A 31-year-old man was taken into custody after the attack.

"We have no doubt that this is in retaliation against so many good blows that the police have landed not only on drug traffickers in Barranquilla, but also outside the city," Barranquilla Mayor Alejandro Char said.

Police were the targets of two more bombings late on Saturday and early on Sunday.

A bomb explosion shortly before midnight Saturday killed two police officers at a small outpost in Santa Rosa, a municipality in the northern department of Bolivar, the authorities said.

Police said the bomb was attached to the side of the outpost.

Unidentified assailants then struck a police station in Barranquilla with explosives, wounding four police and a civilian, an official told AFP.

"A possible link to yesterday's attack is being investigated," the official said.

Security is stepped up

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered security in the city to be stepped up with an additional 1,500 police.

Santos, the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been working to end a more than 50-year-old conflict that has involved leftist guerrilla groups, paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.

"We will not rest until we find those responsible, my solidarity is with the families of the victims and the wounded," Santos wrote on his Twitter account.

Rodrigo Londono, the former leader of the FARC guerrilla group and now its candidate in presidential elections this year, also "vehemently" condemned the Barranquilla attack.

"All our solidarity is for the relatives of the slain police," he wrote on Twitter.

Santos reached a historic peace agreement with the FARC - formerly known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - in November 2016. That led to the rebels' disarmament and transformation into a political party.

The President, who is set to step down in August, is hoping to reach a similar agreement with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.

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