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Updated On: Thursday, August 17 2017

3 Dead, 9 Injured by Explosion in Upscale Colombia Mall

Content by: Voice of America

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA —

A strong explosion rocked one of the busiest shopping centers in Colombia's capital Saturday, killing one woman and injuring 11 other people, authorities said.

Witnesses told of being evacuated from movie theaters and stores after a blast in a second-floor bathroom.

Ambulances and firetrucks rushed to the scene, and the injured were taken to a hospital.

Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa condemned on Twitter what he called a "cowardly terrorist bombing"' at the upscale Centro Andino in the heart of Bogota's tourist district. There were no other details.

Authorities' attention immediately focused on the country's largest still-active rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, which in February claimed responsibility for a bombing near Bogota's bullring that killed one police officer and injured 20 other people.

Accord with FARC

The government last year reached a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was much bigger than the ELN. The ELN is also engaged in peace talks but has so far refused to direct its fighters to lay down their weapons. Some analysts attribute an uptick in violence in Colombian cities to the group's desire to wrest concessions from the government at the negotiating table.

Bogota has seen dramatic improvement in security over the past decade as the country's long-running conflict has wound down. But the capital remains vulnerable to attacks as residents let down their guard.

Still, the Andino shopping center would seem a difficult target. All vehicles entering the parking garage are screened by bomb-sniffing dogs, and security guards are present throughout the mall.

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the head of Colombia's police to lead the investigation and keep him regularly updated. In a message posted on Twitter he expressed his solidarity with the victims.

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