A car bomb targeting soldiers exploded at a Colombian military base Tuesday, injuring at least 36 people, according to officials.
At least three of those injured are in critical condition.
Defense Minister Diego Molano described the blast as a “vile terrorist attack.”
He suggested that the attack could have been perpetrated by either the National Liberation Army, (ELN) – Colombia’s largest remaining rebel group – or dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, though he offered no evidence for either claim.
The explosion occurred in Cucuta, which shares a border with Venezuela and is the capital of North Santander state. Criminal groups fight over drug trafficking routes there and use the loosely patrolled border town to smuggle fuel and weapons.
Videos posted on social media on Tuesday showed dark columns of smoke rising from the base followed by a loud explosion that shattered windows and destroyed offices.
The explosion comes as anti-government protests appear to wind down in Colombia, with protest leaders announcing Tuesday that they will suspend marches that have been going on for seven weeks. At least 50 people have died in the protests over poverty and growing inequality, which started on April 28.
Molano said Tuesday’s explosion occurred shortly after 3 p.m. local time when men disguised as soldiers drove a white pickup truck into the base.
In 2019, a car bomb set off by the ELN at a police academy in Bogota, killed 21 people and prompted the government to end peace talks with the rebel group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.