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At least 6 die in Colombia blast

Officials blame National Liberation Army

The explosion sent smoke into the downtown streets Wednesday.
The explosion sent smoke into the downtown streets Wednesday.

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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- At least six people are dead and another 68 are wounded -- 18 of those seriously -- as a result of a car bomb that exploded Wednesday in a covered parking lot in Cucuta, 250 miles northeast of Bogota, police said.

At least four people were killed in the explosion itself and a fifth person died of asphyxiation from the smoke and fumes. No information on the sixth victim was immediately available.

Officials blamed the leftist rebel National Liberation Army (ELN), which has joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to battle outlawed right-wing paramilitaries for control in north of the capital.

Neither group has claimed responsibility. The U.S. government has designated both groups as terrorist organizations.

In Colombia, drugs and kidnappings fund a 38-year civil war pitting Marxist rebels against right-wing paramilitary fighters and government troops. The conflict kills thousands of Colombians every year.

Last month, the U.S. State Department warned Americans against travel to Colombia, citing kidnappings and other violent or terrorist activities.

About 3,000 kidnapping incidents were reported in Colombia last year, and 26 Americans have been kidnapped in the South American country over the past three years, the department said.

"There is a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than in any other country in the world," the warning said.

Earlier, FARC rebels said they were holding prisoner three Americans who survived a February 13 plane crash in southern Colombia. The executed bodies of two other men from the aircraft -- a Colombian and an American -- were found near the wreckage of the incinerated plane.

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