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New Terror Campaign in Colombia


In Colombia, the breakdown of peace talks with a left-wing rebel group appears to have set off a new terror campaign, as bombs explode in several cities and towns around the country, causing millions of dollars damage to homes and businesses, and injuring scores of people.

It's been two days of mayhem in Colombia. A series of bomb attacks ripped apart hundreds of homes in two cities and a town.

"We lost the whole front of our house, the garage, everything," said Cecilia Alvarez, a middle-aged resident of Medellin, the country's third largest city, where a 25 kilogram bomb exploded Thursday night. Miraculously it killed noone, but sent more than 40 people to hospital. Earlier in the day, a series of smaller bombs went off in front of businesses and banks.

And in the nearby town of Marinella, a powerful explosion outside the police station, killed a woman in her 50s and injured 10 children from a neighboring school.

Across the country, in the city of Cucuta, a car bomb ripped through the city center, Friday morning, injuring dozens. No one's claimed responsibility for any of the bombings. But police suspect they were carried out by the country's second largest guerrila group, the National Liberation Army or ELN.

"Everything indicates it was the guerrillas that set off the latest bomb in Medellin," said General Jorge Castro, a senior police official.

Colombian authorities believe the ELN launched the bombings in reaction to the government's decision two weeks ago to walk away from peace talks with the rebels. Government negotiators argued the ELN were so inflexible, the talks were going nowhere. But Medellin mayor Luis Perez now said the government made a big mistake. "These acts of anarchy could have been avoided," Perez told local media,"if the government had not broken off the talks."

The ELN has been severely beaten down militarily by both army and right-wing paramilitary attacks. Their terrorist campaigns increasingly have a desperate edge. In fact Thursday night, the ELN mistakenly blew up at least 15 of their own fighters, when a truck full of explosives they were driving across country ignited.

Peace talks with the other major guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, have also ground to a virtual standstill. And now, military battles between the FARC and the army are heating up.