Colombia blast targets former minister

President says two dead and several others, including ex-interior minister Fernando Londono, injured in explosion.

A bomb targeting a former Colombian interior minister has killed his driver and a police officer, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

“We condemn this attack … this government will not be thrown off course by these terrorist attacks. We will stay the course and carry out all the investigations needed to find the culprits,” Santos said after Tuesday’s attack.

“This was an attack against former minister Fernando Londono. Unfortunately his driver and a police officer have died,” he added, saying both the victims were accompanying the minister as part of a state protection programme.

The Andean country has battled left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and drug cartels for decades, but a campaign since 2002 against cocaine traffickers and rebels coupled with the demobilisation of paramilitaries has sharply reduced violence in the capital.

Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor, said Bogota has not seen attacks on this scale for years.

“Although there have been smaller bombings in past years, and more recently in front of Radio Caracol in Bogota, this attack is seen as the largest and boldest in many years,” she said.

“The bomb was placed on top of the vehicle of [former interior and justice minister] Londono, who is a rightwing and conservative politician, who has a daily radio programme La Voz de la Verdad, or the Voice of Truth, as well as a newspaper column in El Tiempo.

“He uses both to fiercely attack the FARC and is a staunch supporter of ex-president Alvaro Uribe.”

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said the bomb exploded in one of the most important thoroughfares connecting the city with Colombia’s north.

“Londono was being driven by his driver, who died in the attack. Londono himself is said to be in stable condition,” Rampietti said.

Local television broadcast images of him walking from the scene of the bomb attack with blood covering his face, flanked by a bodyguard carrying a gun.

Local media said more than 20 people were taken to a nearby hospital for injuries sustained in the blast, which was initially reported to have happened on a bus.

Londono was interior minister from 2002 to 2004 in the government of former President Uribe, who led a crackdown on the FARC, the Marxist group which still controls large areas of the country, and other armed groups during his eight years in office.

Although substantially weakened by a US-funded military crackdown, the FARC remains a force to be reckoned with.

Its members often stage attacks against police and military installations, set off car bombs in areas already ravaged by drug violence and cause mayhem in remote jungle regions. However, they rarely carry out attacks in the national capital.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies