March 26, 2010 / 10:57 PM / 10 years ago

Colombian "boy bomb" killed at police station

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A schoolboy carrying a rebel-made bomb died when it exploded before he reached its police station target, officials said on Friday, marking the rare use of a child in such attacks in Colombia’s war.

The 12-year-old walked up local police headquarters on Thursday in the southern town of El Charco, near the Ecuadorean border, carrying a package laden with explosives.

It detonated before he reached the station, local authorities said.

“A child bomb. Terrible. Repugnant,” Antonio Navarro, governor of Narino province, told local television. “We are really very sad but also very angry.”

Colombia’s top military commander Freddy Padilla blamed the incident on drug-running guerrillas who have been fighting the state since the 1960s in the name of socialism.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has stepped up attacks in a show of force before May’s presidential election. Authorities blamed the FARC for a car bomb in Pacific port city Buenaventura on Wednesday that killed nine people.

The rebels along with their right-wing paramilitary foes are regularly denounced for breaking international humanitarian law by using children as combatants, but not as bombers.

“This is horrendous, even by Colombian standards,” said Markus Schultz-Kraft, Bogota-based analyst for the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“We’ve seen the FARC send bombs in toward targets on mules, but I’ve never heard of a child being used like this in Colombia.”

Outgoing President Alvaro Uribe is popular for making many parts of Colombia safer by sending the military on the attack against the FARC. Uribe, a favorite among international investors, is expected to be succeeded by another hard-liner.

Former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, a self- described “war hawk”, leads the opinion polls.

Colombia has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid and is seen by Washington as a buffer against leftist governments in neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador.

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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