A truck bomb exploded during rush hour today in downtown Bogota, and officials said at least 34 people were killed and 950 injured near a building housing Colombia's federal police force.
Several stores were destroyed, and police appealed for anyone in the area with picks and shovels to help search through rubble for survivors. Cries for help could be heard beneath some of the ruins, according to radio reports.
The explosion, which heavily damaged the police building, left a crater 15 feet deep and 30 feet wide and damaged or destroyed 60 cars.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on drug traffickers who have repeatedly bombed the nation's cities in an effort to stop the government from extraditing suspected traffickers to the United States.
National Police Gen. Nazim Yannine Diaz told reporters that police had detained four suspects in the attack. No details were immediately available on the arrests.
The truck, which was rigged with dynamite, exploded in front of the headquarters of the Department of Administrative Security, Colombia's federal investigations police.
The DAS building was left standing, but a senior official said all walls inside were destroyed. The official, Col. Manuel Antonio Gonzalez, said the building was too damaged to continue to serve as headquarters for the agency, which has been at the forefront of Colombia's anti-narcotics campaign.
Casualty reports changed almost by the minute, but bodies of dead and injured people were spread over a five-square-block area.
The International Red Cross said that the blast killed at least 34 people.
Health Minister Eduardo Diaz said in an interview with the radio network Caracol that about 250 people were injured seriously and 700 treated for minor injuries.
Today's blast occurred in the morning rush hour as people were hurrying to work. It flattened buildings across the street from the DAS headquarters and severely damaged at least 100 shops, witnesses said. Scores of employees who had been inside the building and nearby structures wandered around dazed, some of them weeping. Rescue workers and firemen using shovels and pickaxes searched for victims trapped in the rubble.
Windows were shattered in buildings up to 10 blocks away.
The government of President Virgilio Barco Vargas declared war on the nation's cocaine cartels after Sen. Luis Carlos Galan, a leading presidential candidate and anti-drug crusader, was assassinated on Aug. 18. As part of the crackdown, the government has been extraditing drug suspects wanted on charges in the United States.
The drug traffickers have responded with a nationwide bombing campaign. More than 200 attacks have killed 29 people and wounded 238.
In Lugano, Switzerland, police said today that Severo (Junior) Escobar, reputedly one of Colombia's leading drug barons, had been arrested in southern Switzerland.
A police spokesman who declined to give his name confirmed reports in the French-language Tribune de Geneve that the 30-year-old nephew of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar Gaviria, 39, was arrested Nov. 29.