Colombian authorities are offering a $34,000 reward for information about the deadly weekend bombing at a popular shopping center that killed three people and left nine injured in the nation’s capital.
After holding an emergency meeting with his security cabinet Sunday, President Juan Manuel Santos said authorities were working on three hypothesis about Saturday’s bombing, but he declined to provide details, saying it might risk the investigation.
The attack takes place as the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas are implementing a historic peace deal that aims to bring an end to more than 50 years of civil conflict.
The controversial agreement has helped make this long-troubled nation safer, but it also has its enemies. On Sunday, Santos suggested the peace deal might have been one of the targets.
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“With peace and reconciliation we’ve made strides in consolidating tranquility for Colombians,” Santos said in a televised speech. “Rest assured that we will not allow those achievements be stopped by a group of extremists, cowards or those who don’t want reconciliation for the people of Colombia.”
No one has taken responsibility for the blast, but suspicion first fell on the National Liberation Army (ELN), a smaller guerrilla group that was behind a February bomb attack in Bogotá that killed one policeman. The ELN, however, have condemned Saturday’s attack and say they were not involved.
Santos also canceled a trip to Portugal, saying he wanted to be at the head of the investigation during the first critical days.
The bomb ripped through the exclusive Centro Comercial Andino mall at about 5 p.m. Saturday as it was crowded with Fathers’ Day shoppers. Authorities said the explosive had been placed in a women’s bathroom on the second floor. All three deaths were women, including a 23-year-old French national who was working here as a voluntary teacher. At least nine others were injured in the blast and one remains in critical condition.
“The object of terrorism is to plant fear and division,” Santos said, “and our answer should be to find the courage and unity to face it.”
Follow Jim Wyss on Twitter @jimwyss