Bomb explodes by Colombia bull ring, killing 1 policeman

Police and investigators inspect the site where a homemade bomb exploded near the Santamaria bull ring in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. The artefact was detonated just a few hours before a scheduled bullfight, killing a police officer and injuring several dozen bystanders. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A homemade bomb exploded near Bogota’s bullring on Sunday, killing a police officer and injuring as many as 31 bystanders.

The artefact, whose loud explosion shattered windows in nearby apartment buildings, appears to have been left in a sewer outside a new youth hostel popular with foreign backpackers. It was detonated just a few hours before a scheduled bullfight, as police in riot gear were congregating ahead of a demonstration by animal rights activists.

Authorities did not give a motive for the blast and said they had no evidence it had anything to do with the resumption of bullfighting at the ring.

Last month, police fired tear gas and arrested scores of youth demonstrators to control mobs that physically attacked spectators attending the first bullfight in the capital in four years. But more recent bullfights since have gone off without a hitch and Sunday’s spectacle at Bogota’s 1930s-era brick bull ring was the last of the two-month season.

Juan David Gonzalez, part owner of El Pit youth hostel, said his two dozen guests were shaken by the blast but otherwise unaffected.

“We were all inside having breakfast when we heard the blast. Everyone was in shock but luckily nobody inside was hurt,” Gonzalez told The Associated Press.

Mayor Enrique Penalosa said from the blast scene that a police officer identified as John Herrera was killed during the explosion. He refused to say how many people were injured but said they had been evacuated to three nearby hospitals. Earlier, the city government said on Twitter that 31 people were injured, two of them seriously.

“The terrorists won’t intimidate us,” Penalosa said, adding that Sunday’s bullfight would take place as planned despite the incident. “We are going to do all that’s necessary to capture them.”

A video taken at the time of the explosion and broadcast on local TV shows a cloud of debris knocking down a phone cabling box and quickly engulfing a busy street corner as cars and pedestrians moved by.

Bogota’s previous leftist mayor outlawed bullfighting in 2012. But the constitutional court later overturned the ban, ruling that it was part of Colombia’s cultural heritage and could not be blocked.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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