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Attempt on Colombian Candidate Hits Others

South America: Bomb misses presidential race leader, but kills four.

April 15, 2002|From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — A bus exploded as the motorcade of Colombia's leading presidential candidate drove by Sunday, leaving him unharmed but killing at least four people and injuring several others, officials said.

Alvaro Uribe Velez's caravan was pulling out of a campaign stop at a public market in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla when the parked bus exploded. Uribe, a hard-liner running on pledges to crack down on leftist guerrillas, appeared on local radio and television moments later to say he was unharmed.

"What happened is lamentable. I hope that the wounds that my colleagues suffered are not serious," Uribe said.

Gen. Armando Sandoval, police chief in Atlantico state, said four bystanders had died in the blast but that their identities were still unknown. He said three police officers were wounded. Uribe aides said the injured people were motorcycle escorts.

"Attributing blame at this moment would be speculation," Sandoval told local RCN radio.

Suspicion in the attack was likely to fall on the main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Uribe, a former governor, holds a commanding lead ahead of May 26 presidential elections--in large part because his tough rhetoric against the FARC has resonated with fed up Colombians.

Rebel attacks have been escalating since peace talks collapsed in February with President Andres Pastrana's government.

The nation's 38-year war pits the FARC and another guerrilla faction against Colombia's military and a right-wing paramilitary group. About 3,500 people have died annually, most civilians.

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