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EDITIONS
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 00:09 GMT
'Threat' shuts UK Colombia embassy
The Colombian capital Bogota
Colombian capital Bogota expects a wave of bombs
The British Embassy in Colombia has closed until the new year, following a "specific threat".

Other embassies in the capital Bogota are thought to have taken similar action, with the US embassy having already scaled back its operation to provide emergency services only.

Correspondents said the threat involved domestic left-wing terrorism, rather than anything involving organisations such as al-Qaeda.

The capital is braced for a Christmas wave of attacks

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
Colombia has been in the throes of civil war for 38 years, with thousands of people killed in violence linked to Marxist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and government forces.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott, in Bogota, said the capital was braced for a "Christmas wave" of attacks by the biggest left-wing rebel group, the FARC.

"Indeed, four car bombs after an intelligence tip-off were found.

"They hadn't yet been armed but they did have a very sophisticated remote-controlled device, meaning they could be driven to a target without anybody behind the steering wheel.

UK in 'firing line'

"So there is fear, and we believe this is what has provoked the British embassy to close."

He said US citizens in Bogota had long been targets, because of the enormous military assistance America offers the Colombian government.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
President Uribe had asked the UK to help him tackle terrorism
But Britain had recently started "moving into the firing line" after giving the government military support in the form of army training.

And the embassy closure followed a request from Colombian president Alvaro Uribe for Britain and Spain to help him counter terrorist technology.

Mr Uribe had said that technology had been supplied to the FARC by the IRA and the Basque separatist group, ETA.

"What we are seeing is Britain and the US standing firmly behind President Uribe and getting stuck into this bloody civil conflict," our correspondent said.

'Urban terrorism'

The Foreign Office refused to discuss where the threat had come from, or whether staffing levels were being changed.

Updated advice on its website now says: "The British Embassy in Bogota closed at the end of the working day on 19 December and will open again on 2 January.

"This is longer than the traditional Christmas and New Year break and is in response to a specific threat to a number of embassy buildings in Bogota."

An emergency service for Britons in trouble will be maintained until the embassy reopens on 2 January.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"The British Embassy has shut up completely until next year"
See also:

14 Dec 02 | Americas
11 Dec 02 | Americas
09 Dec 02 | Americas
17 Oct 02 | N Ireland
08 Aug 02 | Country profiles
25 Jul 02 | Politics
13 Jun 02 | N Ireland
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