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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 01:56 GMT 02:56 UK
Deadly blasts in Colombia
Scene of the bomb blast
Several buildings were heavily damaged
Two bombs have exploded in a busy night-life district of Villavicencio, south-east of the Colombian capital, Bogota, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 70.


This is indiscriminate terrorism

Police Colonel Jorge Alirio
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place shortly after 0120 local time (0720 GMT) as people were leaving bars and restaurants.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says the country's main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is the prime suspect for the attack.

Violence has been rising in Colombia since February, when the government ended a three-year peace process with the FARC. Just hours before the car bomb a priest was assassinated as he said Mass in the south of the country.

Reward offered

Authorities are reported to have asked local residents to donate blood in hospitals for the wounded and the town's mayor has offered a reward for information about the bombers.

"This is indiscriminate terrorism," police colonel Jorge Alirio Baron told the Reuters news agency.

Several buildings were heavily damaged, including the offices of Super Noticias radio station, and several cars were wrecked, the Associated Press reported.

Villavicencio is host to Colombia's Davis Cup tennis match this weekend against Uruguay.

It is not yet known if the explosion will affect the match.

Villavicencio, which is the capital of Meta province, has suffered blackouts and bomb attacks against roads and bridges by rebels in the past.

In January, thousands of people took to the streets of Villavicencio beating pots and pans to demand an end to the attacks.

Assassination

Just hours before the Villavicencio blast, a Catholic priest was assassinated as he said mass in his church in Argentina, in the southern province of Huila.

Gunmen burst into the church service and shot Father Juan Ramon Nunez four times in front of a large congregation, one of whom was also killed in the attack.

Our correspondent says that since the assassination last month of the Archbishop of Cali, Isaias Duarte Cancino, it has become clear that nobody - not even priests - are safe.

Since the breakdown of the peace process, FARC has been carrying out its threat to bring the country's 38-year civil war to the towns and cities.

About 3,500 people every year are killed in the conflict.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"Authorities suspect the FARC"
See also:

02 Mar 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Colombia's war without end
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