Two police officers and a suspected attacker died in bomb blasts at an airport in northeastern Colombia that the government blamed on terrorism, authorities said on Tuesday.
The suspected attacker managed to cross a wire fence to access the runaway at the Camilo Daza International Airport in the city of Cucuta, close to the border with Venezuela, police said.
A first explosion took place there, scattering the suspected bomber’s body parts.
“Later our explosive experts, having surveyed the area, found a suitcase” that exploded, killing two officers, said Cucuta police chief Colonel Giovanni Madarriaga.
The defense ministry named the two dead de-mining specialists as David Reyes and William Bareno.
Defense Minister Diego Molano described it as a “terrorist” act and suggested the attack could have been coordinated by Colombian rebels based in Venezuela.
“We reject and condemn this terrorist act that aims, as always, to destabilize” the country, said Molano.
It was the fifth attack this year against the state in the Venezuelan border region.
In June, shots were fired at a helicopter President Ivan Duque was traveling in close to Cucuta airport.
That same month, 44 people were injured by a car bomb at a military post, with 14 more injured in August in an explosives attack against a police station in Cucuta.
Five soldiers died and six more were injured in September in an attack on a convoy in the neighboring Arauca department.
Molano said that National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and dissident guerrillas from the disarmed former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) operate in the area.
Colombia is experiencing its worst outbreak of violence since the 2016 peace deal that ended a half century of conflict between FARC and the state, with the former guerrillas setting up a communist political party.
Armed criminal groups are competing in the region for control of the lucrative drug trafficking trade.
The defense ministry said there are 40,000 hectares of illegal coca plantations in Norte De Santander department, whose capital is Cucuta.
Coca is the primary ingredient in cocaine, of which Colombia is the world’s largest producer, and these plantations are “the main source that generates violence” in the region, the ministry said.
More than 13,000 members of the security forces are based in the region aiming to “neutralize and dismantle these criminal groups,” said Molano.
These organizations “often plan, finance and develop their attacks from Venezuelan soil and unfortunately look to perpetrate them in Colombian territory,” Molano told Caracol TV.
Following the first explosion, the aeronautical authority suspended flights at the airport, which was surrounded by police, military forces, medics and public prosecutors.
Colombia and Venezuela have not had diplomatic relations since shortly after Duque took office in August 2018.
Bogota accuses Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro of providing refuge and protection for armed Colombian groups, something Caracas denies.