Two police, attacker killed in bombings at airport in Colombia

Two police officers and a suspected attacker have been killed in bomb blasts at an airport in northeastern Colombia near the border with Venezuela.

The suspected attacker managed to cross a wire fence to access the runaway at the Camilo Daza International Airport in the border city of Cucuta, Colombian police said on Tuesday.

Colombian Defence Minister Diego Molano described it as a “terrorist” act and suggested the attack could have been coordinated by Colombian rebels based in Venezuela.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been tense in recent years, while Cucuta has been a hub for people fleeing Venezuela into Colombia and for commerce between the two countries.

“We reject and condemn this terrorist act that aims, as always, to destabilise” the country, Molano said.

Rebels from the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident fighters from the disarmed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group operate in the area, he added.

These organisations “often plan, finance and develop their attacks from Venezuelan soil and unfortunately, look to perpetuate them in Colombian territory”, Molano told Colombia’s Caracol TV.

Police said the first blast took place at 5 am local time (10:00 GMT) as a man carrying explosives tried to climb over a fence that separates the airport’s runway from one of the city’s neighbourhoods.

The man died instantly in the blast and his body parts were scattered around the area. About an hour later, a second blast occurred when police were searching for a suspicious package, police said.

“Our explosive experts, having surveyed the area, found a suitcase” that exploded, killing two officers, said Cucuta police chief Colonel Giovanni Madarriaga.

The explosions took place near the airport’s runway but the passenger terminal was not affected. Flights, however, were suspended and passengers were evacuated.

Cucuta is the capital of North Santander state, a border region that has recently seen a surge in fighting between rebel groups and drug trafficking gangs that are vying for control of coca crops and trafficking routes.

In June, a car bomb was set off at a military base on the outskirts of the city, where US military advisers were working. Then in August, a bomb was set off outside a police station, injuring 14 people.

Colombian President Ivan Duque’s helicopter was also shot at during a recent visit to the city. He was unharmed in the attack.

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