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Probe continues into strong car bomb explosion that rocked Colombia

By Arthur Brice, CNN
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Explosion rocks Colombia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The blast blew out windows and rained shrapnel blocks away
  • Nine people were wounded but there were no reports of fatalities, officials said
  • President Juan Manuel Santos calls the explosion a "terrorist act"
  • Attention turned to Marxist guerrillas who have been at war with the government since the 1960s
RELATED TOPICS
  • Colombia

(CNN) -- Massive clean-up and an investigation continued Thursday afternoon in Bogota, Colombia, hours after a strong car bomb explosion caused considerable damage to the headquarters of Caracol Radio and other nearby buildings.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was sworn into office Saturday, said authorities "will continue battling terrorism with everything at our disposal."

"I want to tell you that as with all terrorist acts, what they want is to intimidate, to generate fear in the population, to create skepticism in people toward the authorities," Santos said as he toured the bombing site. "They are not going to achieve that. Quite the contrary."

No fatalities were reported, but nine people were wounded, said Bogota Mayor Samuel Moreno and Colombian Health Secretary Hector Zambrano. None of the injuries were life-threatening, officials said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing but the military and police had indications who was responsible, Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera Salazar said, according to Radio Caracol.

Immediate suspicion turned toward Marxist guerrillas who have been fighting the government since the mid-1960s. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC, have previously used bombs aimed at civilian targets as part of their guerrilla campaign.

Shrapnel from the explosion was found more than a block away and building windows were blown out for blocks in either direction. Officials said more than 1,000 apartments and businesses were damaged.

Grainy images from four security cameras broadcast on CNN affiliate Caracol TV showed a massive blast, followed by a dust cloud and glass and other debris raining down onto the street. The blast was so strong that the cameras shook.

Images broadcast on Caracol after the blast showed blown-out windows at the radio station headquarters and adjacent buildings. The blast destroyed street-level store fronts.

Twisted pieces of metal from cars and what appeared to be a charred engine block could be seen on the sidewalk, which was littered with shards of glass.

A bus sat in the middle of the street, a massive hole in the windshield.

Clean-up crews in orange jumpsuits swept the street and sidewalk and operated heavy clean-up equipment Thursday afternoon.

Investigators believe the bomb was hidden in a Chevrolet Swift vehicle that was stolen July 31, Mayor Moreno said.

Residents were evacuated and police cordoned off the street, which was vacant except for officers and other officials. Security was tightened in the area.

The explosion occurred around 5:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. ET), said Gen. Cesar Pinzon, the capital city's police commander.

Radio Caracol journalist Edison Molina was in the station's newsroom at the time of the blast.

The building shook for about three seconds, Molina told Caracol TV, and the room filled with smoke. Lighting fixtures fell from the ceiling, which collapsed, he said.

"It was so strong, we thought it was in the building," he said.

Many residents told interviewers they thought a massive earthquake was rattling their buildings and their lives. Laura Albornoz Damme, a CNN iReporter who lives in a high-rise apartment next door to Radio Caracol, was one of them.

Her shaking bed woke her up and she thought there had been a massive car wreck on the street. Her worried parents rushed into her bedroom.

"When the lights came back on in my house," the citizen journalist said in a written dispatch to CNN, "we began to realize the magnitude of the damage. Right there on the street we could hear people asking for help, the ambulance sirens, that of firefighters, the [police] and anti-explosive squads.

"We could see the broken glass all throughout my apartment. There's not a window that survived. The buildings across the street, the destroyed buildings for blocks around."