VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia – Mourning family members planned funerals for 12 people who were killed when bombs rocked a popular nightspot area over the weekend, as residents of this provincial capital worried the attacks heralded a bloodier phase in Colombia's civil war.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which struck a crowded nightclub district shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. Police suspect the country's main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
More than 60 people were wounded in the explosions, which caused damage to homes and businesses for four blocks.
The street was filled with people when the first bomb went off, killing four of the victims immediately, police said. Dozens of people in nearby bars and dance clubs rushed to see what had happened, only to be surprised by the second bomb moments later. Eight died in the second blast, police said.
"This makes us afraid that something even worse will come," said Lenigh Hillom, her voice trembling as she swept up broken glass in her marketing business, a block from the bomb site.
The second bomb, apparently planted under a parked car, was larger than the first. It also damaged the offices of a telecommunications company and a popular radio station.
The rebels have increasingly turned toward civilian targets since peace talks collapsed on Feb. 20. They have attacking power plants, electrical and telecommunications lines, reservoirs and bridges. On Friday, another car bomb exploded in the town of Fuente de Oro, injuring 13 people and damaging 20 businesses.
Colombia's civil war, now in its 38th year, pits two rebel groups against a right-wing paramilitary force and the U.S.-backed military. It kills some 3,500 people every year, most of them civilians.
Mary Botias wept on a curb Sunday morning, as investigators picked through debris, two mangled corpses still laying on the street. Her only daughter, Diana Cristina Beltran, 22, had been out with friends when she was killed in the attack.
"I want my baby back," Botias said. "She didn't have anything to do with anything. Why did she have to lose her young life?"
Leonor Castro, 71, said her nephew saved her life by carrying her out of her bedroom when the smaller device exploded outside her home. Minutes later the larger bomb went off, destroying her bedroom and blowing the door onto her bed.
The Colombian and Uruguayan tennis teams were in the city, 45 miles southeast of Bogota, for a Davis cup match, but no players were injured. Colombian team captain Uriel Oquendo said his team was in a hotel in another part of the city. The matches continued as scheduled on Sunday.
President Andres Pastrana, who visited Villavicencio on Sunday, compared the bombings to the recent violence in the Middle East.
"The world tends to differentiate between a car bomb in the Middle East and a car bomb in Colombia, but they are the same terrorists who do these things," he said. He said those responsible for the attack were "demented terrorists."
The commander of Colombia's national police, Gen. Ernesto Gilibert, said he doubted the bombings marked the opening of a bloodier offensive of FARC terrorism.
"This is what they do, every so often, to show that they exist," he said at the scene of the explosions.
Villavicencio is located in the Andean foothills between Bogota and a safe haven Pastrana granted to the FARC at the start of peace talks in 1999.
Pastrana revoked the sanctuary and canceled the talks after the FARC hijacked a Colombian airliner and kidnapped a senator who was on board. Separate peace talks with a smaller rebel group are continuing.
In another attack Sunday, gunmen killed a Roman Catholic priest, Juan Ramon Nunez, as he presided over services Saturday evening in the southern village of La Argentina. A parishioner was also shot and later died of his wounds.
There was no immediate indication of who might have been responsible for the killings, which occurred in a region where the FARC operates.