A car bomb exploded near the U.S. Embassy in Lima killing eight people late Wednesday night. The blast came just two days before U.S. President George Bush arrives, the first visit ever to Peru for an American president.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of the early 1990's, when bombs placed by Shining Path guerrillas were almost common. But, this time the message seemed meant to go far beyond Lima. The car bomb was placed in a shopping center across the street from the American Embassy.
Reports say police were called to investigate smoke coming from a parked car. Police were able to evacuate some 40 people from the area before the bomb went off, killing two police and sending pieces of metal 100 meters from the blast. The U.S. Embassy, across the street, is set back behind a five-meter wall and suffered no damage. A hotel, bank and several shops were severely damaged.
Justice Minister Fernando Olivera promised the perpetrators of the car bombing will be found. He says the terrorists will not get away with the horrible crime.
Shining Path guerrillas have stepped up actions in the past months, principally in the countryside. However, Minister of the Presidency Carlos Bruce, does not discount the possibility a paramilitary unit supporting former President Alberto Fujimori could have been involved in the mall bombing.
President Bush is scheduled to arrive Saturday afternoon for talks with Peruvian President Alexandro Toledo and representatives from three other Andean countries to discuss anti-drug and anti-terrorism plans.