Colombian authorties searched Sunday for the perpetrators of a bombing at a major upscale shopping center in Bogota that killed three and left nine others injured in an attack Saturday some have suggested could be an attempt to benefit from fear in the country implenting peace after more than half a century of civil war.
Authorities reported that an explosion hit in a second-floor women's bathroom at the Andino Commercial Center in Bogota on Saturday night. The shopping center, one of the busiest in the country, was evacuated, while President Juan Manuel Santos returned to the capital from the northern coastal city of Barranquilla to respond to the blast.
"This is a vile, cruel, cowardly act and we are not going to rest until those responsible are captured," Santos said, adding that there were no indications that another attack was planned in Bogota. The president also expressed solidarity with the victims, while Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa described the incident as a "cowardly terrorist attack."
Both the FARC and the ELN, the country's two largest guerrilla groups, condemned the attack and voiced support for the victims.
"Solidarity with the victims in Bogota today," FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, wrote on his Twitter account Saturday to 95,400 followers. "This act can only come from those who want to close the paths to peace and reconciliation."
The bombing comes just days before the FARC is set to hand over the last of its weapons to a U.N. monitoring mission as part of a historic peace agreement reached with the government last year paving the way for the guerrilla's disarmament and transition into a legal political party.
The ELN, currently in peace talks with the government, also responded to the attack.
"ELN Peace repudiates the attack againt civilians in the Andino Commercial Center. We share the pain and express solidarity with the victims," the group's peace delegation wrote on its Twitter account Saturday to 27,600 followers.
The active rebel army — which has yet to reach a bilaterial ceasefire agreement with the government and who claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a bull ring in Bogota in February — was quick to be signaled as a possible suspect in the attack, an assumption the group rejected in its response to the bombing.
"ELN Peace calls for seriousness from those who make unfounded and reckless accusations; there are those who try to tear apart the peace process," the ELN peace delegation continued, calling for a thorough investigation.
"The ELN will never again carry actions whose objective is to affect the civilian population," the statement concluded.
The three victims of the attack included a 23-year-old French national, identified as Julie Hunh, who had reportedly been in Colombia for the past six months doing volunteer work.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota offered condolences in a series of tweets, saying that it is standing by to "provide any support requested by the Colombian authorities."