Authorities said a man linked to the National Liberation Army guerrilla was the driver of the car bomb that killed 21 people in a Bogota. President Ivan Duque accused the ELN of lacking “true desire for peace.”
Colombian President Ivan Duque announced on Friday that he was reinstating the arrest warrants of 10 National Liberation Army (ELN) members after his government accused the group of being responsible for a car bombing in a Bogota police academy.
The attack on Thursday, which left 21 people dead and dozens wounded, has been a major setback to two years of peace talk attempts between the Colombian government and the ELN. Former President Juan Manuel Santos had begun the talks with the group in Havana, but Duque suspended them just after taking office in August.
The Colombian president has now called on Cuba to hand over 10 ELN members who were on the island for the stalled peace talks.
“It’s clear to all of Colombia that the ELN has no true desire for peace,” Duque said, citing a long list of kidnappings and attacks attributed to the guerrillas since peace talks began in 2017.
“We would like to thank the Cuban government for the solidarity it expressed yesterday and today, and we ask that it capture the terrorists who are inside its territory and hand them over to Colombian police,” Duque added.
“The terrorists are looking to intimidate us as a society,” he said, declaring three days of mourning.
Duque vowed that Colombia would “demonstrate that it is a strong state, united and won’t break” in the face of the attack.
Colombia’s Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said on Friday that authorities had identified the man who carried out the attack on the police academy.
The man, 56-year-old Jose Aldemar Rojas, was a longtime member of the ELN. A bombmaker, he was known as Mocho Kiko, a moniker he earned for having lost an arm while manipulating explosives during his career with an ELN cell near the border with Venezuela.
Authorities were able to identify him with the help of security cameras and fingerprints on his left hand.
“The entire Colombian state,” Martinez said, “is prepared to confront with the constitution and laws in our hands those who want to ambush our national security and impose the force of terrorism.”
Defense Minister Guillermo Botero provided a clear picture of what happened on Thursday. Botero said Rojas entered the heavily guarded facility through a side entrance used for deliveries.
He managed to drive into the heart of the school and exploded the vehicle in front of a red-tile-roofed barrack used by female cadets just after an honor ceremony had concluded.
“This was an operation being planned for more than 10 months,” Botero said. Authorities believe that the blast was ignited remotely by another suspect, from at a nearby bus stop.