Seven police officers were killed Friday after an explosive device went off Friday afternoon near the Colombian municipality of Neiva in the department of Huila.
Wilson Cuellar, Luis Sabi, Duverney Carreño, Jhon Bautista, Cristian Cubillos, Santiago Gómez and Arles Pascuas lost their lives when a police van ran over a landmine-style artifact left on the road, while Gustavo Esquivel Rojas survived.
After the explosion, gunshots were heard, according to witnesses.
President Gustavo Petro was to travel to the area and said there will be a thorough investigation. He also expressed his solidarity with the relatives of the victims and insisted these acts express a clear sabotage to total peace.
The attack is the deadliest event since Petro, a former guerrilla fighter, took office less than a month ago promising to end the country’s nearly 60-year conflict.
“I forcefully reject the attack with explosives in San Luis, Huila where eight police died. Solidarity with their families,” Petro said on Twitter Friday, quoting a death toll of eight that was later revised. I have asked authorities to go to the area to take on the investigation.”
Petro has taken steps toward restarting talks with National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels as well as with dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combatants who stepped out of the 2016 deal. The current administration also seeks to disarm crime gangs in exchange for reduced sentences.
No group has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, but former FARC groups are known to operate in the area, according to press reports.
At least 450,000 people have been killed in Colombia between 1985 and 2018 alone due to rebel actions and the military responses, many of them beyond the limits of the law.