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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 05:05 GMT
FARC blamed for Colombia club blast
Club Nogal, Bogota
The fire took two hours to bring under control
Left-wing rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were behind Friday's car bombing of a Bogota nightclub, says Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos.

At least 33 people, including six children, are now known to have died in the blast at the Club Nogal, and more than 160 people were injured.

Club Nogal survivors
The lucky managed to get out
City officials believe a car packed with 150kg (330 lbs) of explosives was left in a garage on the third floor of the club - a place frequented by Colombia's political elite and foreign diplomats.

It is the worst attack in a Colombian city since the death of the Medellin drugs baron, Pablo Escobar, in 1993.

Officials fear the death toll could rise, as several people are still reported missing.

American explosives experts have been sent to Colombia to help analyse the blast site as suspicions mount that the bombers used foreign expertise.

Several Colombian Government officials have said the FARC must have had help from international terrorist groups to build a device of such sophistication and power.

They have mentioned Europe's IRA and ETA groups as possible suspects.

'Barbaric act'

President Alvaro Uribe visited the scene of the attack as bodies were still being pulled from the wrecked building.

"This tragedy is the daughter of the mix of drugs and violence," he said.

No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Mr Santos said there could be no doubt that it was the FARC.

"They've been trying for this type of attack for some time, we've managed to thwart a bunch of them," he said.

US President George W Bush condemned "this barbaric act of terrorism" and offered "all appropriate assistance to the Colombian Government in bringing to justice the murderers".

Fierce blast

Colombian TV said the blast had occurred on the third floor at 2015 on Friday (0115 GMT Saturday) and had torn a hole through the building which was "quite full" at the time.

The force of the explosion caused floors to collapse and started a fierce blaze, which burned for two hours before firefighters could bring it under control.

CLUB NOGAL
Shattered facade of Club Nogal
Advertises itself as "one of the most important corporate, social and cultural centres in Bogota"
Features children's and young people's areas - they were due to close just minutes before the blast
Other facilities include: five eating areas, an art gallery and 10th-floor swimming-pool

Media reports said a children's party and a wedding reception were being held in the building at the time of the blast.

A 12-year-old girl, Maria Camila Garcia, was rescued from the rubble at lunchtime on Saturday, after emergency workers had all but given up hope of finding anyone alive.

Both her parents were killed in the explosion, her uncle said.

The explosion came just hours after national police head General Teodoro Campo announced that his officers had thwarted a string of planned city bombings.

As black smoke poured from the building and flames licked around the upper windows, paramedics treated the injured in the rubble.

One witness, Catalina Ortiz, said she was passing the scene in a car with her daughter and husband when she thought the vehicle had been hit.

"When I looked back, I saw the club was on fire, with a ball of fire coming out of the third or fourth floor," she said.

"While I was looking back, things began to fall out of the building."

The club features luxurious meeting rooms, a squash court, swimming pool, sauna, hotel and several restaurants.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"There can be no chance of a dialogue until the FARC call a ceasefire"

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07 Feb 03 | N Ireland
19 Jan 03 | Americas
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