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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 14:59 GMT
Peru bomb fails to deter Bush
Car wreckage
The bomb exploded outside a shopping centre
US President George W Bush will go ahead with plans to travel to Peru this weekend - despite a car bomb attack near the American embassy that killed nine people.


No two-bit terrorists are going to prevent me from doing what we need to do

President George W Bush

Minutes before leaving for the trip, Mr Bush said defiantly: "You bet I'm going."

The White House said security arrangements in Lima had been checked since the attack, which is being seen as an attempt to disrupt - or force the cancellation of - the first official visit to Peru by a US head of state.

No group has admitted carrying out the attack.

Peruvian authorities, who had already been tightening security ahead of the Bush visit, say there will now be further measures, including the closure of Lima's historic centre and extra police patrols.

Undeterred

Mr Bush told reporters in the Oval Office that "we might have an idea" who set off the bomb, adding: "They've been around before."

He did not name any groups.

US President George W Bush
Defiant: President Bush

During the 1980s and 1990s, 30,000 people were killed when the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement guerrilla groups waged war on the state.

Mr Bush said he was not concerned about security on his trip, which also includes Mexico and El Salvador.

"No two-bit terrorists are going to prevent me from doing what we need to do and that is promote our friendship in the hemisphere," he said.

Guard killed

The embassy, in a residential area of the capital, was left undamaged by the blast from a powerful car bomb which detonated at about 2245 local time (0345 GMT Thursday). A second device failed to explode.

But the US state department said a Peruvian embassy guard was among the dead.

scene of bombing
It is said to be Peru's worst car bombing in nearly 10 years

Two police officers stationed at the embassy were among 30 people injured in the attack outside a Banco de Credito de Lima branch office at the El Polo shopping centre, in the eastern Lima neighbourhood of La Molina.

The blast - four blocks from the embassy - left a large crater in the ground, and the street littered with wrecked cars.

First television images from the scene showed the street littered with glass, brick and concrete.

Radio reports said at least four bodies could be seen in the rubble, including a teenager wearing roller skates.


We will not yield even a centimetre to terrorism

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo
One of those killed was a police officer who had been inspecting one of the suspicious vehicles, Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi said.

President Toledo said he would not permit democracy to be undermined by terrorist attacks.

He is cutting short a visit to Mexico, where he is attending the UN international development summit, to return home.

Violent past

The BBC correspondent in Lima says that, for many Peruvians, the attacks are a frightening reminder of what they call the terrorism years of the 1980s and early 1990s, when Shining Path militants frequently exploded bombs and other devices in the capital.

The last car bomb explosion in Lima was in May 1997 and was planted by the group.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, a small bomb exploded just before dawn outside an office of a telephone company in Lima, police said.

No-one was reported injured.

On Tuesday night, a package containing a grenade was thrown from a car on to a street in north-eastern Lima. The grenade exploded but no-one was injured, police said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Gibb
"The evidence is that it was dynamite"
Former BBC Latin American Service head Nick Caistor
"It could be Peruvian home-grown people"
See also:

20 Apr 01 | Americas
Peru rebels stage hunger strike
21 Mar 02 | Americas
In pictures: Peru car blast
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Peru
21 Feb 02 | Americas
Timeline: Peru
15 Jul 99 | Americas
Peru's Shining Path - who are they?
21 Mar 02 | Americas
Peru's violent past
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