Nine suspects implicated in the bomb attack, Saturday June 17, which killed three women in the Andino shopping mall in Bogotá have been captured by Colombia’s national police and face multiple charges Sunday, including conspiracy to commit acts of violence, kidnapping, homicide and terrorism.
The suspects are believed to be members of the urban militia group Movimiento Revolutionario del Pueblo (MRP) – People’s Revolutionary Movement.
Authorities believe the so-called MRP is responsible for at least 15 attacks in Bogotá since 2015, including the bomb in the La Macarena neighborhood on February 19 this year which targeted police, killing one officer and injuring 25.
The MRP is believed to be made up of former National Liberation Army guerrilla and under the command of Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo, alias ‘Pablito’.
The first time Colombians were made aware of this shadowy group’s existence was the attack on August 16 2016 in the capital, when a low intensity artifact exploded inside a branch office of the healthcare entity Cafesalud, and located on the Avenida Chile, heart of the country’s financial district. Perpetrated in broad daylight, and an attack in which no one was killed, anti-explosive experts found leaflets and a flag belonging to the organization. On the flyer a statement “The peace of the rich is not the peace of the people,” was printed.
According to the Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martínez, the eight suspects captured during simultaneous operations in the Colombian capital and the town of El Espinal (Tolima) are members of the MRP. The country’s top law enforcement official also revealed during a press conference on Saturday that two of the persons captured were known to police after being arrested March 16 for transporting explosives, but were released by a judge on grounds that the devices didn’t detonate.
A week after the Andino explosion, in which three women were killed inside a bathroom on the second floor of the shopping complex, investigators have yet to release footage from 250 surveillance cameras, which are still being examined for clues dating back a month. One investigator told The City Paper that “a political motivation was never discarded,” of three possible theories.
Both the National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) condemned the attack in official statements. The ELN is currently in peace talks with the Colombian government.
More than 200 special agents from the Fiscalia (Attorney General’s Office) participated in the investigation that led to the capture of eight suspects and another person Sunday in the south of Bogotá.
The Andino bomb was directed against women and children on the eve of Father’s Day. Among the dead was 23-year old Julie Huynh, a French citizen who arrived in Colombia from Cuba to volunteer for six months in a poor neighborhood. Huynh was preparing to return back to France when she was killed inside the bathroom stall of the Andino mall. Colombians Ana María Gutiérrez, 41, and Lady Paola Jaimes were also killed. Pilar Molano Villamizar, 45, remains hospitalised in the Clinica del Country and lost a leg in the attack.