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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 06:14 GMT

World: Americas

Colombia bomb kills seven

Emergency services tend to one of the wounded

Seven people have been killed and dozens injured in a powerful explosion in the Colombian capital, Bogota - the second this week.

Five people were killed immediately, and two died later in hospital, police said.

The BBC's James Reynolds: "It seems terrorism has returned to the streets of Bogota"
Officials believe the attacks could be in retaliation for the Supreme Court's decision this week to approve the extradition of two suspected drug traffickers to the United States.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana responded to the attack by signing a decree ordering the two men's extradition.

No Colombian drugs traffickers have been extradited since 1991.

The BBC's Ruth Morris: "Reminiscent of the late 1980's reign of terror unleashed by the drug lords".
Officials said at least 80 kg (175 pounds) of explosives had been placed in a pick-up truck and detonated by remote control outside a busy shopping centre in northern Bogota.

It was the Colombian capital's worst bombing since the wave of terror by the Medellin cocaine cartel in the late 1980s and early 1990s aimed at stopping its members from being sent to the US for trial.

That campaign of violence only ended with the cartel's collapse in 1993.

Bogota's Mayor Enrique Penalosa branded the attack ''a cowardly and murderous act".

The government has announced a reward of more than $250,000 for information leading to the capture of the bombers.

Buildings destroyed

The blast at 1015 local time (1515 GMT) completely destroyed several buildings, and blew out the windows of others across the road some 50 metres (150 feet) away. It gouged a crater a metre deep in the pavement.

[ image: A policeman looks on in shock]
A policeman looks on in shock
"I saw the light and then everything went blank," said Mario Renton, a watchman whose nose was broken by the force of the explosion.

Officials said at least 40 people were hurt in the bombing, nearly half of them seriously.

Witnesses told a local radio station there had been a gigantic cloud of dust, and panic among local residents and shopkeepers.

Extraditions resume

If the bomb attack was an attempt to pressure the government into reversing its decision to resume extraditions to the US, it backfired spectacularly.

[ image: President Pastrana is sticking to his policy]
President Pastrana is sticking to his policy
President Pastrana immediately convened the National Security Council and then issued a decree ordering the extradition to the US of suspected drugs traffickers, Colombian Jaime Orlando Lara and Venezuelan Jose Fernando Flores Garmendia, whose cases came before the Supreme Court earlier this week.

A separate extradition order was signed for a Cuban, Sergio Bravil Gonzales, who is wanted in Florida.

They are the first of 42 alleged drug bosses facing extradition to stand trial before US courts.

Justice Minister Romulo Gonzalez vowed the government would stand firm and cited President Pastrana as saying "all drug traffickers will be extradited" if they choose to fight with murder and bombs.

[ image:  ]
"Neither the government, nor civil society nor anyone else will be intimidated," Mr Gonzalez said.

Thursday's blast came two days after another explosion in the capital, in which eight people were injured.

Police are still searching for clues as to what, or who, caused that explosion.

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