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Security forces stand guard outside the police cadet training school in Bogota, where an apparent car bomb attack left at least four people dead and 10 injured on January 17, 2019.Image copyright
AFP

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The police academy is located in the south of the capital

A large explosion has killed at least nine people in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, the country’s defence ministry says.

The blast happened outside a school for police cadets in the south of the city.

Fifty-four people were reportedly injured in the blast which happened at 09:30 local time (14:30 GMT).

Images show a charred vehicle in front of the General Santander school, which is located in a working-class area of Bogotá.

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EPA

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Media have so far been kept outside the gates of the academy

Witnesses say a car entered the school compound and when it was stopped by guards at a checkpoint the driver accelerated and hit a wall, at which point the car exploded.

They say that it happened just after a ceremony at which officers were being promoted.

The driver of the car is believed to be among the dead.

Among those injured are a Panamanian and an Ecuadorean national. Relatives of cadets being trained at the school have gathered in front of the gates to find out more information.

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EPA

Image caption

Relatives are waiting anxiously for news of their loved ones

Colombian President Iván Duque, who was in the west of the country at the time of what he said was an “attack”, tweeted that he would return to the capital immediately.

He said Colombians would not “bow to violence”.

Bogotá’s mayor Enrique Peñalosa said he condemned the “terrorist act” but so far the authorities have not said who may be behind the explosion.

Colombian radio station RCN tweeted footage of the scene of the blast.

Car bombs were not uncommon during the decades-long conflict between the Colombian government and left-wing rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

But local media say there has been no such blast in the past nine years.

The Farc signed a peace agreement with the government in November 2016 and the group has since become a political party of the same name. The party’s leader, Pastor Alape, condemned the attack on Twitter.

He called it a “provocation against the political way out of the conflict”. He also wrote that the attack was a ploy to ruin the chances of a peace agreement between the government and a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Peace talks between the ELN and the previous government of President Juan Manuel Santos stalled.

President Duque, who takes a more hardline approach to the group, has not resumed the talks.