Secretive Group Resumes Attacks on Escobar
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A shadowy paramilitary group burned three ranches linked to druglord Pablo Escobar early today in retaliation for a bombing that killed 11 people at a shopping center.
The blast, which also injured more than 100 people and severely damaged 30 shops at the Centro 93 shopping center near downtown Bogota on Thursday, prompted the government to decree longer prison terms for terrorist crimes.
It was the 11th bombing in a major Colombian city this year. Sixty people have been killed and more than 600 wounded by the blasts, all of which have been blamed on the Medellin cocaine cartel, led by Escobar.
After an emergency meeting with advisers late Thursday, President Cesar Gaviria raised the mandatory prison term for a fatal terrorist attack to 60 years from 40. The term for non-fatal attacks rose to 40 years from 30.
Although no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, Gaviria blamed Escobar. His order on stiffer sentences bypassed Congress under terms of a state of emergency he declared Nov. 8.
Police said an underground group of Escobar’s enemies, called People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar, resumed attacks on the druglord’s operation early today by burning three ranch homes belonging to members of the gang.
Authorities say they believe the group was formed by former gang members angered by a murderous purge ordered by Escobar.
The group announced its existence in February and began bombing and burning properties belonging to Escobar, his family and his associates, including the druglord’s prized classic car collection.
Escobar broke out of jail last July and declared war on the government in January. He faces numerous charges in both Colombia and the United States ranging from drug trafficking to murder and terrorism.
He is believed to have ordered the assassinations of three presidential candidates and the bombing of a Colombian airliner in 1989 in which all 107 people aboard were killed.
A search force of 1,600 police and soldiers have been on Escobar’s trail since his escape. They have captured and killed many cartel members and forced others into surrendering.