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Colombia Car Bomb Kills 12, Injures 50 - 2002-04-07

A car bomb in Colombia, has killed at least 12 people and injured more than 50. Authorities in Villavicencio suspect it is the latest crime by left-wing rebels operating in the area.

The powerful early morning blast occurred in a popular nightclub zone, in the provincial capital of Villavicencio. Hundreds of people were still in the streets, moving in and out of bars, enjoying their weekend out on the town, when the explosion ripped through the street.

Hospitals in the city are overflowing with injured people and health services have made an urgent plea for blood donors.

City mayor Omar Lopez says there were no militarily strategic buildings in the area. The bomb was set in the middle of innocent people, Mayor Lopez told local media. This was nothing but a pure terrorist act, he said. There is no other explanation.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But local leaders believe it was the work of the FARC, the country's largest left-wing rebel group. The guerrillas have attacked Villavicencio, about 75-kilometers southeast of Bogota, and nearby areas repeatedly in recent months.

The city sits on the edge of the former demilitarized zone, which the guerrillas officially controlled until peace talks fell apart in February. Then the army retook the zone, chasing the rebels back into hiding. The guerrillas have taken revenge by sabotaging electricity and telephone services in the region.

But the car bomb is by far the most vicious action the region has suffered since the peace talks fell apart. Colombian troops have moved into Villavicencio to secure the streets. And President Andres Pastrana flew into the city this morning to show his support for the population.

But Mayor Omar Lopez believes it is up to the community to help prevent future rebel attacks. The community must be alert to any suspicious actions. They have to help the authorities, the mayor said, and call in any information that could save lives and lead to the capture of these terrorists.