An explosion inside a high-end mall in Bogota killed three women and injured several other people, according to the mayor’s office of the Colombian capital.
The large blast detonated in the early evening around 5 pm within the Andino Shopping Center, a multistory plaza that houses designer clothing stores, restaurants, and a movie theater located near Zona T, one of the capital’s most active areas for dining, shopping, and going out on the weekends.
The explosion is believed to have occurred within one of the women’s bathrooms within the mall. An investigative team was dispatched to search one of the bathrooms, according to the mayor’s office.
Among the injured, one woman is in serious condition but “not at risk of death,” according to Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa
One of the victims who was killed, according to an update on Twitter from Peñalosa, is a 23-year-old French woman who had been volunteering at a local school.
The majority of those injured in the explosion were taken to the nearby hospital Clinica del Country. Others were brought to Clínica Nogales, and at least one victim was transported to Hospital Militar. At least 10 ambulances, in addition to multiple specialized response teams, were on the scene in the aftermath of the blast.
The office of the attorney general said that the incident is being investigated by a terrorism-related unit of law enforcement. Jorge Nieto, the head of Colombia’s National Police, is leading the investigation, according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Military officials are also aiding the investigation, and law enforcement has called on anyone who has witnessed anything suspicious to report the incident to the authorities.
President Santos condemned the presumed attack on Twitter, offering his “solidarity with the victims.” The president, who was outside of the capital at the time of the explosion, said that he would be “returning to Bogotá at this moment” to take charge of the situation.
Early reports on social media suggested that there may have been explosive devices located in at least two other malls in Bogotá. The mayor’s office, on Twitter, stated that “we have no indication of explosions in other shopping centers.”
On an official Twitter account, a representative of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest guerrilla force in Colombia since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal late last year, said that the group “repudiates the attack on Andino Shopping Center against civilians” and scorned those who “make reckless and unfounded accusations,” adding that “there are those who seek to the shatter peace processes.” The representative also urged that “the state should investigate in depth to identify those responsible” and said that the ELN stands in solidarity with the victims.
The ELN has been engaged in formal peace talks in Quito, Ecuador, with the Colombian government in recent months. Several incidents have threatened those negotiations, with several politicians calling for the discussions to be called off.
Rodrigo Londoño, the head of the FARC and better known by his alias Timochenko, said on Twitter that he stands in solidarity with the victims and that only someone who wants the peace process to fail would commit such an act.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they become available.
Photo: The Centro Comerical Andino mall, located in a high-end shopping and dining neighborhood in Bogotá. (Credit: Pedro Felipe)