%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:BOG101-052201; AUDIO:%)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A 500-pound bomb found in Colombia's capital was harmless and probably placed to terrorize the population, the country's interior minister said Tuesday.

On Monday police in Bogata announced they had deactivated the bomb and spared the city an explosion that could have obliterated a two-block area.

Television stations showed authorities picking at the device _ a yellow, missile-shaped bomb complete with tail fins _ found under a pile of oranges and bananas on the back of a pickup truck.

But bomb experts concluded that the explosive actually had no chance of exploding as rigged.

``Even if they had wanted it to explode, it is impossible ... unless it is dropped from the air,'' Interior Minister Armando Estrada told reporters. ``Its purpose was probably to sow terror.''

Colombia has been on edge about a possible resurgence of urban terrorism. Car bombings this month in Medellin and Cali, Colombia's second and third-largest cities after Bogota, killed eight people.

The bomb found in Bogota was parked in front of the offices of a communist newspaper, Voz, fueling speculation that it was placed by a right-wing paramilitary group battling leftist guerrillas in Colombia's 37-year war.

The paper's director was recently named to a commission charged with drawing up plans to combat paramilitary violence. Estrada said the government was still trying to determine who was behind Monday's scare.