Ecuador says it will accept law enforcement help, if needed, from Colombia and the U.S. to find those responsible for the Saturday morning bombing of a police command center near the Colombian border in Esmeraldas Province.
National police say they have detained several men for questioning but do not believe they are directly involved in the bombing. The men are suspected of being members of a drug gang that transports drugs offshore between Peru and Colombia.
“We have been offered the assistance of specialized explosives experts and experts from the government of Colombia and we accept will accept their help if we need it,” Attorney General Carlos Baca said Sunday at a press conference in San Lorenzo, the site of the bombing.
In his press conference, Baca said Ecuador would also accept assistance from the U.S. drug enforcement officials. “They have expertise that can help us keep the narco traffickers out of Ecuador and we welcome the assistance,” he said.
The powerful blast that detonated at 1:40 Saturday morning caused only minor injuries to 28 police personnel and neighborhood residents but caused considerable structural damage to the police headquarters and destroyed several nearby homes. Six vehicles parked on the street in front of the police building were also destroyed.
Authorities in Colombia say Ecuador’s bombing could be connected to two Saturday bombings in northern Colombia that killed seven police officers.
Although Baca said he welcomed U.S. assistance in the investigation, Ecuador would not allow the U.S. to establish drug enforcement operations in the country. The U.S. maintained an air surveillance base in Manta until 2009 when former president Rafael Correa refused to extend the airport lease.
President Lenin Moreno said last week that he supported the decision to terminate the U.S. lease. “We won’t allow foreign countries to maintain military or law enforcement operations within our borders,” he said. “It’s a matter of protecting our sovereignty.”
The U.S. has several drug surveillance operations in Colombia.