A powerful bomb injured 28 and caused extensive damage to a police command center in Esmeraldas Province early Saturday morning. The explosion, which also destroyed several vehicles and damaged nearby houses, is believed to be the work of drug gangs upset by stepped up Ecuadorian patrols of off-shore drug transport routes.
The police station, in San Lorenzo, is only 15 kilometers from the Colombian border and focuses on controlling drug shipments headed to Colombia.
Police say the bomb was packed in a plastic container in Mazda pickup truck parked next to the building. The detonation occurred at 1:40 Saturday morning, blowing out windows in the police station and causing structural damage. About 30 homes near the police station also sustained damage but a full assessment won’t be known until Sunday or Monday.
Four police officers and 24 others were injured in the blast but no one seriously. Police say none of the victims required hospitalization.
The San Lorenzo explosion occurred just hours before a deadly bombing of another police station in Barranquilla, Colombia. That bombing killed five policemen and injured another 42. Colombia’s national police commander believes the two attacks may be linked. “It appears that drug carets may be involved in both events although we won’t know until the investigations are complete.”
Colombia is seeing an upsurge in drug related activities and government said recently that it feared an increase in violent acts.
President Lenin Moreno called the Ecuador bombing an act of “narco terrorism” declared a state of emergency in San Lorenzo until investigators complete their work, and Attorney General Carlos Bacas said extra resources are being assigned to the investigation to capture those responsible.
Bacas said the bombing appeared to be retaliation for increased off-shore law enforcement in recent weeks. Ecuador coast guard and navy have made record captures of drugs since November. “We have been successful in keeping drug transport out of Ecuador and now we are stopping it on the ocean waters too,” he said. “We will not back down to terror.”
On Saturday night, police announced that seven men suspected of transporting drugs have been detained for questioning.