Colombia Drug Bosses Declare a 'Total War,' Bomb Parties' Offices

From Reuters

Colombian drug traffickers wanted by the United States declared "total war" on the government today after bombing the offices of the country's two main political parties and setting fire to two politicians' homes in the drug capital of Medellin.

The group known as "The Extraditables" said in a statement sent to the media that they had declared war on the government and on what they described as the industrial and political oligarchy.

They also threatened journalists, judges, business and trade union leaders "and all those who have persecuted us in the past."

The drug traffickers' statement warned Colombians that they would burn and destroy "industries, properties and mansions of the oligarchy".

In what appeared to be coordinated attacks at 3 a.m., dynamite blew up the headquarters of the Conservative Party and the office of a faction of the ruling Liberal Party, and the weekend homes of two prominent politicians were set on fire. Police defused stashes of dynamite at radio networks owned by some of Colombia's wealthiest families.

1 Killed in Blast

Police said one person sleeping at the Liberal Party faction office was killed in that blast.

The group's statement was an apparent response to Washington's decision Wednesday to ask Bogota to arrest 12 suspected cocaine kingpins, the first step toward their extradition and trial in the United States.

President Virgilio Barco Vargas announced emergency measures last Friday to fight the country's multibillion-dollar drug trade, including reinstatement of an extradition agreement with Washington.

Barco faces his stiffest challenge since taking power three years ago after the killing last week of a judge, a police chief and leading presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, apparently on the orders of the drug barons.

"We declare total war on the government, the industrial and political oligarchy, the journalists who have attacked and insulted us, the judges who have sold out to the government, magistrates who have extradited us, trade union leaders and all those who have persecuted us," the statement said.

Linked to Cartel

"The Extraditables," often linked to the notorious Medellin drug cartel, claimed their first major victim in January last year with the assassination of Atty. Gen. Carlos Mauro Hoyos.

On Wednesday, Colombia's judges suspended a strike they began last Thursday to protest the killing of an appeals court judge. They said the walkout was temporarily suspended to give the government time to adopt security measures to protect the nation's 4,379 judges.

Police said the farm of former Finance Minister Edgar Gutierrez was attacked and buildings set on fire. Gutierrez is the head of an association called Pro-Antioquia, a group of private businessmen in Medellin, a city of 2 million people that is headquarters for the drug cartel of the same name.

The farm retreat of Ignacio Velez Escobar, a leader of the opposition Conservative Party, in the nearby municipality of Sabaneta was also burned.

Police defused stashes of dynamite found at the entrance of the Medellin offices of Caracol and Radio Cadena Nacional networks. The stashes, each of about 22 pounds, were placed at the buildings around 3 a.m.

The radio networks are the leading ones in the country.

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