Five police officers were killed and over 40 others injured in a bomb blast inside a police station compound (pictured) in Colombia’s coastal city of Barranquilla around 6.40 am on Saturday, officials said.
One suspect has been arrested and two more have been identified, Barranquilla Mayor Alejandro Char said.
Authorities have offered $18,000 reward for information on those responsible for the attack.
Colombia Reports, quoting local media, said two persons on a motorcycle threw an explosive into the police station’s patio when officers had gathered for their morning briefing.
But a Blu Radio report said the explosion was caused by a bomb that had been placed inside the police station.
Barranquilla Police commander General Mariano Botero, instead of speculating on the bomb used, said the attack may have been launched by a local drug gang to avenge the recent police crackdown and subsequent arrest of their leader ‘Happy’.
Happy was held on charges of drug trafficking, extorting businesses and terrorising residents with murder threats. He is said to have links with the ‘Rastrojos’ drug gang from Cali and the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group called ‘Clan del Golfo’ by authorities.
Some police officials linked Saturday’s blast to the seizure of a cash truck in Barranquilla at the time of the attack. Those transporting illegal cash may have engineered the blast to divert the attention of the police, they said.
“We will not rest until we find those responsible” for the “cowardly attack,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Twitter.
Char and National Police director General Jorge Nieto too condemned the attack.
Char said police will not allow a few bandits to disturb the peace of Barranquilla, Colombia’s biggest port city on the Caribbean coast.
Although peace has returned to Colombia after rebels disarmed last year following peace deal, new criminal groups are hoping to gain control.
In an unrelated incident, 28 people were injured in neighbouring Ecuador when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the town of San Lorenz past midnight on Friday.
Four police personnel were among the injured. Nearly 40 buildings were damaged by the blast.
President Lenin Moreno declared a state of emergency for the region and blamed drug traffickers for the attack.