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Car bomb kills nine in Colombian port town

Published: 4:43AM Thursday March 25, 2010 Source: Reuters

A car bomb exploded in the Colombian port town of Buenaventura, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens more in an attack authorities blamed on FARC guerrillas or cocaine traffickers.
   
The blast destroyed part of the local office of the attorney general in Buenaventura, the country's largest port which handles half the country's coffee exports but is also a major drug trafficking route to the Pacific coast.
   
Local television images from the city showed wrecked taxis and destroyed store fronts as residents carried wounded people to hospitals minutes after the blast, the worst attack this year in the Andean country.
  
Colombia's long war has ebbed since President Alvaro Uribe came to power in 2002 and sent troops to take on rebels and drug barons.

But guerrillas are still fighting in rural areas and the country remains the world's top cocaine exporter.
   
"We cannot let our guard down," Uribe said after the bombing, without blaming any armed group.

"We had recovered a lot in Buenaventura, this act shows we cannot allow ourselves to be too confident."
   
Nine people were killed and another 50 wounded in the blast, the National Police said.
   
Key cocaine route
   
Armed Forces commander General Freddy Padilla said guerrillas from the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, were suspected in the bombing.

But the country's attorney general said the attack could have been carried out by drug traffickers in retaliation for investigations.
   
FARC rebels are still a threat in rural areas where they use ambushes, hit-and-run attacks and homemade landmines to harass army and police patrols.

The rebel group is deeply engaged in drug trafficking and extortion.
   
The coast near Buenaventura is a key cocaine smuggling point and rebels and rival paramilitary militias have often bombed and attacked army and police patrols in the city.
   
Uribe is popular for his US-backed security drive and he steps down this year after two terms in office.

Colombians go to the polls in May to vote for a new president and most candidates are promising to maintain his security policies.
   
A poll showed his former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, was leading the race for the presidency.

Santos was credited with organizing important strikes against FARC rebel commanders during his time as minister.

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