By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Two police officers and a civilian were killed early Tuesday in two explosions near the airport in the Colombian city of Cucuta on the border with Venezuela.
The first blast occurred around 5.20 a.m. when a man carrying explosives jumped over the fence around the perimeter of the airport and caused them to activate. He died instantly.
The second explosion took place when police bomb squad members David Reyes and William Bareno found a second device that exploded at 6.50 a.m.
“Criminals entered Camilo Daza airport, where they detonated an explosive device between the runway and the fence,” said Cucuta police commander Colonel Giovanni Madarriaga. “Our explosive experts, having surveyed the area, found a suitcase. As they approached, with all security precautions, it exploded,” he added.
Colombian President Ivan Duque took to Twitter to condemn the attack and offer his condolences to the families of Reyes and Bareno.
“We condemn the cowardly terrorist attack that occurred in the city of Cucuta. We are coordinating immediate actions to find those responsible for this attack,” Duque said.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino has accused the Colombian government of wanting to blame the neighboring country for the attack.
“While xenophobia accentuates crimes against Venezuelan migrants under Duque's complicit gaze, his misgovernment resorts to the old trick of blaming the neighbor,” Padrino said on Twitter.
The remarks came after Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said the attack was planned in Venezuela, where Colombian authorities say dissident armed groups are operating.
"We must continue to attack these criminal groups, such as the dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), who from the border always seek to activate terrorist actions that they plan and finance from Venezuela and operate and develop in Colombia," he said in a video posted on Twitter.
Since his election in 2018, President Duque has accused the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of allowing armed groups to operate in border regions.
The attack occurred at a time when violence in Colombia is escalating as the fifth anniversary of the 2016 peace deal signed with the FARC is being marked and in many parts of the country it is not yet noticeable.
The Norte de Santander region, located near the Venezuelan border, has recently seen a surge in fighting between trafficking groups that are fighting for control of coca crops and trafficking routes.