BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – An explosives attack Saturday morning on a police station in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla left at least four officers dead and 42 others wounded, officials said.
Colombian National Police Director Gen. Jorge Hernando Nieto, who traveled to Barranquilla from Bogota, confirmed that casualty count in a press conference and called the attack “demented.”
“I express all our solidarity ... with the families of the four police who have died thus far and with the more than 40 police who suffered some type of injury,” Gen. Nieto said.
The attack occurred at around 6:30 am while officers were lined up during a shift change, the commander of that city’s Metropolitan Police force, Gen. Mariano Botero, told reporters, adding that an explosive device had apparently been placed in one of the station’s walls.
An individual activated the bomb by remote control, according to Botero, who said the station’s central patio was left in ruins, with debris and police helmets scattered everywhere.
The attack was initially thought to have been a grenade blast, but Gen. Botero said a suspect had been arrested nearby with a notebook and communications gear.
Authorities are trying to determine whether the explosion was related to a separate, nearly simultaneous attack near Barranquilla on an armored truck used to transport valuables.
One guard was killed and two others were wounded in that attack, in which nothing was stolen.
Barranquilla Mayor Alejandro Char said earlier Saturday that he believed organized-crime elements had carried out the attack on the station in retaliation for blows the police has dealt drug traffickers in Barranquilla and other parts of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.