Blast kills three Ecuadoran troops near Colombia border


Quito (AFP)

Three Ecuadoran soldiers were killed and at least seven other people were injured Tuesday in a bomb explosion on the country's northern border with Colombia, the government said.

A roadside bomb exploded as a patrol carrying out "surveillance and control" operations on the border passed by, the communications ministry said.

"It resulted in the unfortunate death of three members of the armed forces," it said, adding that at least seven people were reported injured. It did not specify whether the injured were civilians or troops.

The incident occurred in the Mataje area of coastal Esmeraldas province, where the security forces have come under a spate of attacks since January. The region borders Colombia's troubled Narino department.

The biggest attack occurred on January 27, when a car bomb explosion at a police facility left 28 soldiers and civilians wounded.

Ecuador attributed the attack to Colombian former FARC guerrillas working for Mexican drug cartels along the border.

President Lenin Moreno condemned the latest attack on Twitter and said his government would continue to hit "organized crime and common crime."

Moreno said in a weekly broadcast address on Monday that he had sent reinforcements to the border area following the spate of violence.

"The criminals of organized gangs think that, with these actions, they will weaken the security forces," he said.

"They will not intimidate us. I have arranged all the necessary measures to strengthen our presence in the border areas."

Two soldiers were wounded in an attack by an unidentified armed group in the province on Sunday, while a police vehicle was damaged by a bomb in a separate incident.