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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 16, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 12Apr00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Anti-US Politics Behind Bombing Of 3 LDS Chapels In Colombia
Cali Colombia El Pais 12Apr00 N1
By Lucinda Dillon: Deseret News staff writer

CALI, COLOMBIA -- Yesterday's bombing of three LDS chapels in Cali, Colombia was probably motivated by the political situation in Colombia and had little to do with the LDS Church, which is often seen as a symbol of U.S. intervention there. Police in Cali blame the attack on the National Liberation Army (ELN), a marxist group that is the second largest rebel group in the country.

But the timing of the bombings was also no accident, coming as Colombia's President Andres Pastrana was in Washington, D.C. meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The bombings also come as part of a national campaign by the rebels against the so-called Columbian Plan (Plan Colombia) for resolving the three-decade-old civil conflict in Columbia and in favor of a different plan, the National Peace Convention (Convencion Nacional de Paz).

During President Pastrana's visit, the U.S. anti-drug czar Barry MacCaffrey said yesterday that Colombian President Pastrana was one of several leaders in Colombia targeted for assassination by the rebels. But Colombian officials say they aren't sure what evidence MacCaffrey has for this assertion, wondering if he may be referring to a June 1999 revelation that Pastrana was a target of a plan that led to the President changing his travel schedule.

Meanwhile, more details about the LDS Chapel bombings have become clear. Just three chapels were damaged in the attacks, including chapels in the Cristobal Colon, Ciudad Modelo and Las Americas neighborhoods. A fourth chapel was saved from damage when authorities managed to disarm the bomb left at it. In two of the cases, the bomb was thrown at the chapels, and in the third the bomb was left at a gate, which was damaged by the explosion. [The El Pais article has a picture of the damage to the gate).

Police have arrested Fernando Rios Rua, 29, in connection with the attacks, claiming that Rios Rua moved between the chapels on a motorcycle. Police are still seeking two other men wanted for leaving another bomb at the same time at a parking structure next to the Central Municipal Administrative building.

Cali Mayor Ricardo Cobo said he contacted local LDS Church authorities following the blasts to assure that they would cooperate with the police in the investigation. He told El Pais that the bombings were just the latest in a wave of efforts by the ELN to get support for the National Peace Convention. "The city can't give in to these violent acts. It is necessary for the community to collaborate with the authorities, denouncing the unusual actions they may know about, because the clandestine acts are an attack on everyone."

Meanwhile, LDS Church authorities in Salt Lake were just learning of the attacks today. Church spokesman Dale Bills released the following statement to the press on the attacks, "We are saddened to learn that four of our chapels have been slightly damaged by terrorist bombs in Colombia. Gratefully, the explosions caused no injuries. Such misdirected attacks do nothing but temporarily deprive Colombian citizens of a place to worship God as their conscience directs."

An LDS missionary contacted at the Colombia Cali Mission told the Deseret News that one of the buildings had damage to a ceiling inside the meetinghouse. None of the three buildings had extensive damage.

Currently the Church has about 129,000 members in Colombia in 23 stakes and four missions. Four of the stakes are in Cali, a city of 2 million and one of the major population centers in the country. The Church once before had to remove its missionaries from Colombia, in September 1988, because of the volatile political climate. Since then the number of stakes in Colombia has tripled and the Bogota Colombia Temple has been announced and completed. The Temple was dedicated last August.

See also: 4 LDS chapels are bombed in Colombia
Deseret News 12Apr00 N1
By Lucinda Dillon: Deseret News staff writer


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