The defense ministry said two men drove a Toyota truck to a military base in the town of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela.
The Colombian government is investigating after a car bomb explosion at a military base near the country’s border with Venezuela injured 36 people.
Two explosions took place Tuesday at a base used by the Army’s 30th Brigade in the northeastern city of Cucuta, the Defense Ministry said, after two men drove a white Toyota truck at the site after posing as officials.
“We reject and repudiate this despicable and terrorist act aimed at attacking Colombian soldiers,” Defense Minister Diego Molano said, adding that three people were seriously injured.
One of the injured has undergone surgery, Molano told reporters, and 29 are hospitalized.
Officials blamed the attack on members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s last recognized armed group, but Molano said dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) may also have been involved.
FARC dissidents rejected a 2016 peace deal that ended the group’s participation in the armed conflict in Colombia, which left 260,000 dead and millions displaced. Colombian government officials and the military said there were some 2,500 to 3,000 FARC dissidents left across the country.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, from the capital Bogota, said Molano and President Ivan Duque visited the region after the attack, which he described as one of the biggest incidents since 2019.
“We are indeed seeing an escalation,” said Rampietti, explaining that armed groups have fought for control of illicit crops such as coca, as well as smuggling routes, in the region, fueling a recent surge in trafficking. violence.
“There are also other drug mafias operating in this region. In addition to coca there, there are also gold mines in this area, [and] very important smuggling routes of people, money, drugs and weapons between Colombia and Venezuela ”, he declared.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota mentionned Late Tuesday that a small number of US servicemen were on base to train with a Colombian unit when the blasts occurred, but no serious injuries were reported among US forces.
Duque, the Colombian president, told reporters that his government would offer a reward of $ 135,000 to find those responsible for the explosions in Cucuta. A special investigative group has also been set up to investigate what happened, he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report in March that Colombia experienced an upsurge in violence in 2020, when at least five conflicts with armed groups were ongoing.
The group said 389 people – mostly civilians – were killed by explosive devices last year, the highest number since 2016.
That same month, the Colombian government FARC dissidents accused of detonating a car bomb in the town of Corinto, about 60 km (37 miles) south of Cali, in western Colombia. This incident injured more than two dozen people, including government officials.
More than 27,000 people were displaced across Colombia in the first quarter of 2021, according to the country’s human rights ombudsman said in april, a 177% jump compared to the same period a year earlier.
The mediator said people had been driven from their homes amid threats, killings, forced recruitment by armed gangs and clashes between armed groups.