Colombia’s Inspector General’s Office on Thursday began investigating the role of military officials in an alleged car bomb attack inside an army base earlier this week.
The military previously suspended several army officials of the 30th Brigade in Cucuta where 36 people were injured by a major explosion on Tuesday.
Neither the ELN nor the dissident 33rd Front and “Nueva Marquetalia” formed by FARC dissidents claimed responsibility for the alleged attack.
The three guerrilla groups are some of multiple illegal organizations that are active in the border region around Cucuta.
The partial investigation
The inspector general investigation is meant to find out whether army officials’ negligence allowed guerrillas to drive the alleged car bomb into the military compound.
Neither the Prosecutor General’s Office nor the Inspector General’s Office announced plans to investigate the possibility that the explosion was caused by an accident.
Contradictory claims made by Defense Minister Diego Molano and Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa additionally fueled speculation about the possible involvement of the military in the blast.
Molano and Barbosa on Wednesday announced the first results of the investigation in a fake press conference that was not attended by any journalists.
The government’s contradictions
Wednesday’s “press conference” left more questions than answers as the chief prosecutor blatantly contradicted claims made by the defense minister the night before.
Molano said Tuesday that two men who identified themselves as state officials drove the car bomb into the 30th Brigade’s base less than three hours before the blast.
Terrorists cannot continue to pose as peace managers abroad, while they commit atrocious acts against our soldiers and Colombians.
Defense Minister Diego Molano
Barbosa said Wednesday that only one person drove the alleged car bomb and denied that this suspect faked being a state official.
Security footage shown by government-loyal television network RCN showed that the car that later exploded was inspected by an army official before being allowed to enter the military compound.
Two hours after entering the army base, the car was parked in front of the Support Structure office after which the driver left the military base, according to the prosecution.
Barbosa confirmed the defense minister’s claim that the car bomb was detonated twice, but said this happened at 3:01PM and 3:04PM instead of 3:10PM and 3:12PM as claimed by the minister.
Images taken from the military base indicate that the first blast destroyed much of the car, but left a vehicle that was parked behind the alleged car bomb virtually unscathed.
According to government-loyal newspaper El Tiempo, investigators found that “the initial explosion allowed the activation of evacuation protocols for personnel that was inside the base.”
Videos and images published on social media indicated that second explosion was considerably bigger, and caused major damage to the buildings.
According to the Prosecutor General, more than two kilometers of detonating cord was found at the site.
Doubts about the government’s claims
The contradictory claims made by Molano and Barbosa caused confusion and skepticism even among government-loyal journalists.
According to the editor-in-chief of RCN Noticias, Jose Manuel Acevedo, “it’s becoming very difficult to believe that was happened at the brigade in Cucuta was a simply act of negligence.”
The “prosecution and the defense ministry are working on the hypothesis that some officials were complicit in entering the car bomb,” the government-loyal journalist said on Twitter.
Government critics had already coined a “false flag” conspiracy theory, which is formally not being investigated by the prosecution.
Also the investigation of the Inspector General’s Office only seeks to clarify whether there has been negligence.