BOGOTA, Colombia — Gunmen on motorcycles killed two employees of the newspaper El Espectador in Medellin in separate attacks Tuesday in an apparent effort by cocaine traffickers to force the daily to end its anti-drug crusade.
The shootings followed 13 bombings reported in three other Colombian cities overnight. It was the largest outbreak of bomb attacks since drug lords, blamed for killing a presidential candidate, went to war with the government nearly two months ago.
The outbreak of violence came during a visit to Colombia by U.S. Army Gen. Maxwell Thurman, the head of the U.S. Southern Command based in Panama.
Killed within an hour of each other were Marta Luz Lopez and Miguel Soler, a newspaper spokesman said. Lopez was administrator of the paper's Medellin office; Soler was the circulation manager.
An anonymous caller later told the newspaper that the killings were the work of "the Extraditables," suspected drug traffickers who are sought for extradition to stand trial in the United States. The caller also said that any other El Espectador employees who did not leave Medellin within three days would be killed.
The newspaper has long suffered from attacks by drug traffickers angry at its calls for government action against them.
El Espectador Publisher Guillermo Cano was assassinated by drug traffickers in a spray of machine-gun fire Dec. 17, 1986, as he was leaving the newspaper in his car. And the main offices of the 102-year-old paper were bombed last month.
"I don't know if we'll be able to continue operating in the city of Medellin under the circumstances," said Luis Gabriel Cano, president of the paper's editorial board. He was in Monterrey, Mexico, for a media conference.
Nineteen people were injured by the overnight bombings in Bogota, Barranquilla and Pereira, police said. There were no indications whether the bombings were connected with Gen. Thurman's visit, which included a meeting Monday with President Virgilio Barco Vargas and Gen. Miguel Maza, commander of the Administrative Security Department, the government investigative police, the U.S. Embassy said.
The embassy described the meeting as routine. Thurman left Bogota on Tuesday.
The bombings Monday evening and early Tuesday included nine in Bogota that injured eight people. Police said a man who planted one of the bombs was killed in a shoot-out with police.
Three bombs exploded and two were defused in Pereira, a police spokesman said. He said an explosion in a lottery ticket office wounded 11 people.
Police in Barranquilla said one bomb exploded but no one was injured.