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Colombia Woman Killed by Neck Bomb

May 15, 2000

CHIQUINQUIRA, Colombia (AP) _ An explosive placed around a woman’s neck by men demanding money went off Monday as technicians tried to deactivate it, killing the woman and a bomb technician as well as injuring three soldiers.

Elvia Cortez, 53, was ``practically decapitated,″ when a 3-inch-thick circular tube containing explosives went off around her neck, army Lt. Col. Fabio Roa said. The explosion occurred by a rural highway outside this town in central Boyaca State.

Just before dawn, four men burst into her home on a farm outside of the town, placed the collar around her neck, and told her they would detonate it at 3 p.m. if she failed to pay them $7,500, Roa said. The four men then left.

Police were called, drove Mrs. Cortez to the side of a nearby highway flanked by cow pastures, and began trying to deactivate the bomb.

A technician was working on the explosive-packed collar when the device went off at about 1 p.m, Roa said. Officials said it may have been rigged to explode if tampered with.

The technician had an arm blown off and died later in a Bogota hospital, the army reported. One soldier lost three fingers, another part of his forearm, and another suffered cuts.

Family members of Mrs. Cortez were present when the collar exploded, and were seen afterwards in tears. She was the mother of four children.

Roa said the assailants were probably from the country’s largest rebel band, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. There was no immediate reply from the group, which finances itself in part through kidnappings and armed extortion, and sometimes kills those who refuse to pay.

Common criminals also kidnap and extort people for money in the South American country immersed in a 36-year guerrilla conflict.

Colombians are accustomed to scenes of extreme violence. But ``it’s the first time in the history of the war that we’ve seen such a macabre act,″ observed Gen. Fabio Bedoya of the army’s 1st Brigade based in the state capital, Tunja.

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