At least three women were killed and nine injured after an explosive device detonated in a restroom in a busy upscale shopping center in Colombia’s capital on Saturday, officials said. The Andino shopping center in an exclusive area of Bogota was evacuated after the blast at around 5 p.m. local time in the women’s lavatory. The Andino commercial center was packed with people buying gifts ahead of Father’s Day celebrations on Sunday.
Police said the device was placed in a toilet bowl in the second-floor restroom. Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa denounced the attack. “This cowardly terrorist attack in Andino really hurts me,” he said on Twitter. One of the victims was a 23-year-old French woman who had been volunteering in a poor area of the city, he told reporters. Streets surrounding the shopping center were closed and buildings evacuated by police as ambulances raced to the scene and security officials tried to establish who was responsible for the blast. Bomb squad specialists combed the area in a search for additional devices.
Photographs on social media showed a woman slumped against the wall with a pool of blood around her and what appears to be a large shard of metal piercing her back. In front of her is another woman with her leg torn apart above the knee. Another image showed the destroyed toilet cubicle with a blood-splattered handrail and debris strewn all over the floor. President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered an investigation into the incident. Security has improved in Bogota over the last decade as police and military increased surveillance and put more armed officials on the streets. At one time all bags were checked at the entrance to shopping malls, but that has been vastly scaled back in recent years.
Sniffer dogs still check cars at parking facilities in the capital. A peace accord signed last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s biggest guerrilla group, raised confidence bomb attacks might cease. The country’s second-largest insurgent group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, in February exploded a device in Bogota that injured dozens of police. Authorities said there have been threats of attacks in Bogota by the so-called Gulf Clan, a group of former right-wing paramilitary fighters who traffic drugs.