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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
Blasts mar Colombia inauguration
Alvaro Uribe
Uribe: "We can't expect miracles"
Up to 13 people are thought to have been killed and at least 20 wounded in explosions in the Colombian capital Bogota, minutes before Alvaro Uribe was sworn in as the country's president.

Several of the explosions took place in the Cartucho district near to the national parliament where Mr Uribe was receiving his presidential sash. Other devices went off near the presidential palace.

FARC rebel
FARC rebels have targeted Uribe many times

An attack on a military college earlier in the day injured 12.

A massive security operation was mounted in the Colombian capital to protect the new president, who has sworn to crack down on leftist rebels.

But the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota says the attacks have made a mockery of the security efforts.

They appear to be a taster of what the new president can expect from the main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), if he tries to follow up his election promise, our correspondent says.

Mr Uribe, a 50-year-old lawyer, won a landslide election victory in May after promising a crackdown but has since warned people not to "expect miracles".

Ring of steel

Police were expecting attacks by leftist rebels who have already targeted Mr Uribe several times this year.

The outgoing President, Andres Pastrana, staked his government's reputation on initiating peace talks with the rebels, who have been at war with the Colombian authorities for 38 years.

But his attempts to end the conflict failed, and the cycle of violence has continued.

Unprecedented security measures were in place to protect the ceremony:

  • Twelve thousand extra police officers and 20,000 extra troops were on patrol, creating 10 security rings around the presidential palace and Congress buildings
  • Vehicles were barred from entering the city centre and gas tankers not allowed to circulate in the capital
  • The skies over Bogota were declared a no-fly zone for five hours, and fighter jets and spy planes - including an American one - had orders to shoot down any aircraft that violated the airspace
  • Domestic airports surrounding Bogota were closed for 72 hours.

History of attacks

Our correspondent says the FARC has traditionally marked the accession of new presidents in some bloody way.

Soldiers inspect scene of one of the blasts earlier in the day
Unprecedented security was unable to stop the attacks

Mr Uribe has already been the target of the FARC many times - during his governorship of Antioquia and when campaigning for president.

In the past six months there have been three attempts on his life.

Mr Uribe's father was gunned down by FARC rebels on the family ranch in Antioquia in 1983.

Colombian secret police say they uncovered two rebel plots to disrupt the inauguration ceremony.

One of them allegedly involved flying a plane packed with explosives into the presidential palace. The other involved the use of a mortar to hit the helicopter carrying Mr Uribe to the ceremony.

Reform programme

Mr Uribe has already warned that he will need a "lot of time" to tackle Colombia's problems.

He is seeking a big rise in military spending and more support from the US to combat the drugs trade which finances the country's rebel and paramilitary groups.

The incoming president has also vowed to overhaul the state.

He says he will propose a referendum to reduce the number of legislators in order to save money and reduce the problem of corruption.

The Colombian parliament voted on Wednesday to allow his predecessor to leave the country.

Mr Pastrana is reportedly planning to move to Spain, where he will write a book on the peace process.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"The new president has had a very warm welcome"

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See also:

06 Aug 02 | Americas
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