Photographer: Raul Arboleda/AFP via Getty Images

Santos Seeks Calm After Bombing as Rebels Deny Involvement

Updated on
  • Colombia’s president decries ‘vile, cruel and cowardly act’
  • Three killed in bombing at Bogota mall on eve of Father’s Day

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called on his people to not let terrorism interrupt their daily lives and the country’s peace process after a Saturday night explosion at an upscale mall in Bogota killed three women, including a French citizen.

Juan Manuel Santos speaks the site of the attack on June 17.

Photographer: Raul Arboleda/AFP via Getty Images

“We make a call for unity to all Colombians,” Santos said Sunday after a security meeting with his ministers and the mayor of Bogota. “We have advanced in peace and reconciliation and we won’t allow that these achievements be stopped by cowards and extremists.”

The government is studying three hypotheses for the attack and called on citizens to rely on official sources of information instead of speculation about the identities of the attackers. “We will find who is behind this attack soon,” Santos said.

Members of the National Liberation Army, which has been holding peace talks with the Colombian government since February, said on Twitter that they "repudiate the attack" and denied their involvement. The ELN was behind an explosion near a Bogota bullring in February that injured two dozen police officers and two civilians, and has also been behind attacks on oil pipelines.

The larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reached a peace agreement with the government in late 2016 after four years of negotiations, ending nearly a half-century of armed conflict.

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The explosion occurred around 4 p.m. Bogota time, on the eve of Father’s Day when the mall was busy with shoppers looking for gifts for loved ones. The blast was traced to a device placed in a women’s restroom.

The French victim, identified as Julie Huynh, 25, had been working with a French-backed charity that helped people displaced by Colombia’s conflicts, the Associated Press reported.

Santos said he will lead the investigation into the attack and that he has canceled his visit to Portugal, where at least 61 people were killed in a forest fire Sunday. He still plans to leave for France on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron and discuss trade issues.

Presidents of the Pacific Alliance, which includes Santos and his counterparts from Chile, Mexico and Peru, are scheduled to meet at the end of June in the city of Cali, in eastern Colombia.

— With assistance by Christine Jenkins, and Oscar Medina

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