Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa tweeted, “I regret to inform that 3 women were killed by a bomb in the Andino Centre. Another is in serious condition, but not at risk of death.” He described the incident as a “cowardly terrorist attack.”
The victims were a 23-year-old French woman and two Colombians aged 27 and 31, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
The blast occurred on a second-floor bathroom with about 500 people in the vicinity, according to El Tiempo. Police said the device was placed in the toilet bowl.
Natalia Urdangarin, a Spanish expat living in Bogota, told Global News that she was in the adjacent Atlantis mall with her husband and children when they heard a loud explosion.
“We came down quickly to get our car and started driving eastwards, where Andino is and in the direction of our house… and we saw a lot of smoke coming out of the second floor,” Urdangarin said.
“We were less than 500 metres away from the blast.”
She added that the mall was packed with shoppers, due to it being a Saturday evening the day before Father’s Day.
Streets surrounding the commercial building were closed by police and ambulances raced to the scene as security officials tried to establish who was responsible for the blast.
A photograph on Twitter showed a woman slumped against the wall with a pool of blood around her and what appears to be a large shard of metal piercing her back. In front of her is another woman with her leg torn apart above the knee.
President Juan Manuel Santos condemned the blast, and tweeted that the country’s police chief General Jorge Nieto was leading the investigation into the incident.
The wounded are being treated in three area hospitals, Univision reported.
Security has improved in Bogota over the last decade as police and military increased surveillance and put more armed officials on the streets. At one time all bags were checked at the entrance to shopping malls, but that has been vastly scaled back in recent years.
Sniffer dogs still check cars at parking facilities in the capital.
A peace accord signed last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s biggest guerrilla group, raised confidence bomb attacks might cease, but in February the second largest insurgent group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, exploded a device in Bogota that injured dozens of police.
– With files from Reuters