Two vehicles exploded inside the facilities of a Colombian army barracks, in Cúcuta, on the border with Venezuela, on Tuesday afternoon (15). Defense Minister Diego Molano said it was a terrorist act, although the attack has yet to be claimed by any group.
According to the minister, 36 people were injured, three of them with some seriousness, but there were no deaths. One of the injured was operated on, while 29 are hospitalized. “We reject and repudiate this despicable and terrorist act aimed at attacking Colombian soldiers,” Molano told reporters.
One of the vehicles used was a white van, driven by two men posing as soldiers, the minister said. On Caracol TV channel, General Marco Evangelista Pinto of the Army’s Second Division said the vehicles were inside the barracks, but near the front door and at the away from more frequented areas, such as soldiers’ dormitories, for example.
During the afternoon, several images of soldiers and residents of the region circulated on social networks. An officer filmed the barracks’ offices and rooms, which were empty, destroyed by the explosion. In local media, some family members said soldiers called to report that the place had been hit by explosions.
The base used by the Army’s 30th Brigade, in the San Rafael neighborhood, is the largest in this area on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, as operations against illegal groups are coordinated from there. Colombian President Iván Duque said on a social network that Molano would travel to Cúcuta on Tuesday evening, to meet with local military leaders and assess the situation.
Heavily militarized on both sides, the Colombia-Venezuela border region has been the scene of clashes between local criminal groups, guerrillas and their dissidents. Despite the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s army continues to face combatants from the National Liberation Army (ELN), gangs and former FARC members who reject the pact, all active in the province. Santander, where the 30th Brigade operates.
According to the Minister of Defense, the initial hypothesis is that the ELN is responsible for the attack, but it is also under investigation if there is any involvement of FARC dissidents.
In addition to its military importance, the region is one of the main exit points for refugees from Venezuela and has great geopolitical importance. The dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro accuses Colombian President Iván Duque of having infiltrated “invading” agents there to attack the government. Duque, on the other hand, sees Maduro as harboring criminal groups and Colombian guerrilla dissidents only to destabilize his authority in the region.
This is not the first time that there has been an attack on the military under the Duke administration. The most significant happened in 2019, when a car bomb exploded at the General Santander Cadet School in Bogota, killing more than 20 and injuring 60.
In March this year, Cauca province was the target of another car bomb, which left more than 40 injured. The government blamed the FARC dissidents.