A Colombian passenger jet exploded and crashed outside Bogota today, killing all 107 people aboard, authorities said. An anonymous caller later said drug traffickers bombed the plane to kill five informants.
The Avianca Airlines Boeing 727 crashed at 7:18 a.m., about five minutes after taking off from Bogota's El Dorado International Airport en route to the western city of Cali, said Jorge Gonzalez, operations chief of the Civil Aeronautics department. He said all aboard were killed.
There were various reports that the plane may have suffered two explosions, the first triggering a fire before a second blast blew the plane apart.
Hours after the crash, a man claiming to be a member of a drug cartel hit squad named The Extraditables called Bogota radio station Radio Caracol to claim responsibility for downing the plane, which was carrying 101 passengers and six crew members.
The caller said the jet was bombed because "there were five snitches on the plane," accusing some of the passengers of being informants against drug traffickers.
It was not known which passengers were the targets of The Extraditables, who are so named because they are sought for extradition mainly to the United States.
Police had earlier said they were investigating the possibility drug traffickers had downed the plane bound for Cali--home of one of Colombia's main cocaine cartels.
The cocaine cartels, which declared war on the nation last August, have been blamed for setting off more than 250 bombs in the last three months.
A control tower official said that within four minutes after takeoff, witnesses began reporting the crash of Flight HK 1803 in a rural area near the town of Soacha, about 10 miles south of Bogota.
"The plane suddenly exploded--bam!--it was a matter of seconds," one witness said.