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Car bomb explodes outside Bogota radio station

A car bomb went off close to the Caracol radio station in the Colombian capital of Bogota on Thursday, injuring at least nine people. The blast comes less than a week after Juan Manuel Santos was sworn in as the country's new president.


AFP - A car bomb exploded in Bogota on Thursday, wounding seven people and damaging hundreds of buildings in an early challenge to the country's new President Juan Manuel Santos.

The car exploded at 5:30 am (1030 GMT) near a building housing the offices of Radio Caracol, breaking windows and causing other damage but no deaths.

It had been packed with some 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of ammonium nitrate and a pipette of propane gas, said city mayor Samuel Moreno.

Seven people were hurt, including three who were hospitalized, Moreno said.

Santos, who took office on Saturday, rushed to the scene where he told reporters his government would not be swayed by "an act of terrorism."

"We are going to fight terrorism with every means available to us," he said.

Many locals said they were woken up by the explosion on a main avenue which was largely deserted at the early hour.

"The bedroom windows shattered into pieces which came through the curtains. It was a miracle they didn't fall on us," said a resident who gave his name as Carlos.

More than 1,100 buildings were damaged, mainly with broken windows, the mayor said, while the ceiling fell in at Caracol, one of Colombia's main broadcasters.

Bogota police chief Cesar Pinzon said that a probe was open and it was not et clear if the broadcaster had been the target.

No group claimed immediate responsibility, but five people who were detained at the start of August for transporting almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of a similar explosive were brought in again on Thursday, justice officials said.

Neighboring Venezuela, which renewed ties after the latest diplomatic row with Colombia only two days ago, joined regional condemnation of the attack.

"The Venezuelan people and government most energetically condemn this terrorist act directed at the brother people of Colombia," said a statement from the foreign ministry.

A former defense minister who dealt severe blows to the country's leftist guerrillas, Santos has moved quickly since his inauguration to reconcile with the leftist presidents of both Venezuela and Ecuador.

Colombia has been beset for years by violence involving leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary death squads, and powerful drug cartels.

"We are not going to be frightened, to be intimidated. We are not going to fall into this trap," Santos said on Thursday.

The last major attack in Colombia occurred March 24 when a car bomb exploded near the mayor's office in the Pacific port of Buenaventura, killing nine people.

Then-president Alvaro Uribe blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In a videotaped message released a week before Santos took office, the FARC's leader, Alfonso Cano, offered to open peace talks with the new government.

After his swearing-in, Santos said he would not close the door to talks, but they would have to be "based on the unalterable premise that (the guerrillas) give up arms, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and intimidation."

The FARC has an estimated 8,000 fighters. Another leftist guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, is believed to have some 2,000 combatants.

Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said the transition period between the Uribe and Santos presidencies had been one of the most peaceful in decades.

But he said in recent days police have seized large quantities of explosives, notably in the central city of Neiva on Wednesday where they found an undetonated car bomb.

"The watchword is very clear: intensify, intensify, intensify" the pressure, he said.

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