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Bombs Rip Colombia, Killing 25, Injuring 168 : Violence: Blasts occur amid crowds in Bogota and Cali. ‘There’s no doubt it was the drug mafia,’ police say.

From Times Wires Services

Two car bombs exploded Saturday in the Colombian capital, killing at least 19 people and injuring 143, while six people were killed and 25 hurt when another bomb exploded in the southern city of Cali.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the nation’s powerful drug barons are suspected.

It was the most deadly day of bombing in Bogota since a huge blast demolished security police headquarters last December, killing 67 people and injuring hundreds. It came on a day when the city was crowded with shoppers.

The bomb in Cali, 190 miles southwest of Bogota, exploded in a nightclub area of the city, headquarters of one of Colombia’s most powerful cocaine cartels.

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It was the third car bomb to explode in Cali in the past two weeks in what authorities believe is a resurgence of a war between Colombia’s two main cocaine cartels based in Medellin and Cali.

Of the 143 injured in the Bogota blasts, 19 were in critical condition in local hospitals, a Health Ministry statement said.

One of the Bogota car bombs exploded in the main shopping street of Quirigua, a heavily populated working-class suburb in the northwest of Bogota. Many of the casualties appeared to be aboard a crowded bus that was passing by, local radio station RCN reported.

The other bomb exploded almost simultaneously a few miles away at the Niza shopping center in a wealthy northern suburb. Besides inflicting casualties, it wrecked 32 cars, Bogota Mayor Andres Pastrana said.

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The Niza bomb exploded in a parking lot across from the new, three-level mall. Glass from 20-foot-high plate-glass windows turned to shrapnel, according to RCN. It said about 200 houses and apartments and 16 stores were damaged by the bomb, which left a 3-foot-deep crater.

Asked who was to blame, police Col. Jose Camero told RCN: “There’s no doubt it was the drug mafia.”

“The Extraditables,” top Colombian drug barons wanted for trial in the United States, pledged last month to explode huge bombs in Bogota as part of their war on the state.

The authorities blame drug traffickers for scores of bombings and assassinations that have killed more than 200 people since the government cracked down on the illegal drug trade last August.

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President Virgilio Barco Vargas had launched the crackdown hours after the killing of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, which was blamed on drug traffickers.

Since then, his administration has extradited 14 drug suspects.


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