October 21, 2018
National News

Colombian police searching for third suspect in deadly Barranquilla bombing

Colombian authorities are now on the hunt for a third suspect tied to the Saturday blast at a police station in the northern port city of Barranquilla that left five officers dead.

Police released a composite sketch of the third suspect on Friday and said they are offering 50 million Colombian pesos (about $17,000 USD) for vital information on his identity or whereabouts. Policia Colombia are urging anyone who has either seen or recognises the man in the sketch to come forward by calling either 123, +57 3213945182 or +57 3126587504. Policia Bogota have already arrested and imprisoned one suspect, Cristian Camilo Bellón, and are currently searching for a second, Jefferson Torres Mina, according to the Colombian daily newspaper El País.

The Ministry of Defense placed the blame for the attack on the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, which then admitted fault in a subsequent press release.

With the Colombian government connecting ELN to the latest attacks, it has further stifled peace talks between the two sides. President Juan Manuel Santos withdrew the government’s main negotiator from talks with ELN that were taking place in Quito, Ecuador.

Violence has risen after the two sides allowed a temporary ceasefire to expire in January. The bombing in Barranquilla could be the third such attack on police by the ELN, as representatives from the Defense Ministry have said ELN is likely tied to bombings in the Pacific towns of Bolívar and Soledad, which together left two police officers dead and several people injured.

“As long as neither party can reach a new ceasefire agreement, military actions will continue happening on both sides,” read a statement released by the ELN days after the Barranquilla attack. “That’s why we have insisted since December that all roadblocks in negotiation be cleared.”

The group that is now generally considered the largest and most violent of Colombia’s guerrilla armies have said in that same statement that 19 of their members have been killed by the Colombian army since the new year.

Barranquilla’s annual Carnival celebration will not be cancelled in light of the attacks and is set to begin Saturday, Feb. 10. Authorities say they are on high alert for any follow-up attacks, as nearly 2,000 police officers will be on patrol from the beginning until the festival’s conclusion on Tuesday, Feb. 13, National Police Director Jorge Hernando Nieto Rojas told digital news site Portafolio.

The four-day party, which is the second largest Carnival in the world behind only Rio de Janeiro’s, is expected to see more than 300,000 visitors this year.

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