Three Colombian police killed in bomb blast as Bogotá protests flare again

Three police were killed in a bomb blast at a police station in Colombia after thousands gathered for renewed protests and sporadic looting erupted in the capital, Bogotá.

A police source said 10 officers were also injured in the explosion late on Friday in the town of Santander de Quilichao, in the south-western province of Cauca, known as a hot spot for drug trafficking and violence.

The source did not attribute the bombing to a particular armed group. Police are expected to hold a news conference on Saturday morning.

The blast came after demonstrations flared again in several parts of Bogotá a day after mass marches ended in three deaths.

After more than 250,000 people marched on Thursday to express growing discontent with president Iván Duque’s government, another large crowd gathered on Friday afternoon in Bogotá’s Bolívar Plaza.

The crowd, which included the elderly and families, was dispersed by police firing tear gas, sending protesters running up the steep, narrow streets of the historic district.

Some protesters regrouped at nearby intersections and continued chanting.

Bogotá’s mayor, who earlier banned alcohol sales, said there would be a 9pm curfew in force for the whole city with the exception of the Bosa, Kennedy and Ciudad Bolívar neighbourhoods, where the curfew was to begin at 8pm.

The protesters had been urged on by former leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro and others who called for another demonstration following a spontaneous “cacerolazo” – a traditional expression of protest in which people bang pots and pans – on Thursday.

“We are here to keep protesting against the Duque government,” 25-year-old art student Katheryn Martinez said as she banged a pot with a fork in the plaza, accompanied by her father Arturo, 55.

“It’s an inefficient government that kills children and doesn’t acknowledge it,” she said, referring to a recent bombing targeted at rebels that killed eight teenagers and led the former defence minister to resign.

The protests have flared amid rumours about possible economic reforms and anger at what protesters say is a lack of government action to stop corruption and the murder of human rights activists.

The protests have coincided with demonstrations in other Latin American countries, including anti-austerity marches in Chile, protests over vote-tampering allegations in Bolivia that led president Evo Morales to resign, and inflamed tensions in Ecuador and in crisis-hit Nicaragua.

The three deaths in Valle del Cauca province were being investigated, the defence minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, said earlier on Friday.

He said authorities had confirmed the death of two people in Buenaventura and one more in Candelaria, adding that a group of people had tried to loot the Viva Buenaventura mall.

“As a result of the confrontation between vandals and security forces and in events that are the subject of investigation by the attorney general’s office, two people were killed,” he said.

Though the vast majority of marchers participated peacefully, 98 people were arrested, while 122 civilians and 151 members of the security forces were injured on Thursday, he said.

The authorities were conducting 11 preliminary investigations into misconduct by members of the security forces, Trujillo added, after images circulated on social media showed police treating protesters roughly, including a riot officer kicking a protester in the face.

Commuters in Bogotá and other cities faced long delays on Friday. Many of Bogotá’s bus stations were closed and police used tear gas in a least two parts of the city’s working class south in an attempt to clear road blockades. Several supermarkets in the area were looted and some protesters stole a public bus, according to local media.

Friday’s protest was not supported by one union that helped lead Thursday’s marches and whose head warned against political “opportunism” associated with the marches. The Central Workers Union head said his group would participate in the Friday protest.


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