Colombian president criticized armed forces

President Alvaro Uribe publicly criticized his armed forces commanders on Wednesday after a key ally in Congress narrowly survived a bomb attack and police discovered a cluster of rockets pointed at the presidential palace.

Colombia's army chief warned that the main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is planning various terrorist attacks on infrastructure and other targets.

On Tuesday, police discovered nine rockets inside a run-down home less than a mile (about one kilometer) from Uribe's office in downtown Bogota that were apparently going to be used to attack the presidential palace.

The rockets belonged to the FARC and were in metal tubes aimed directly at the presidential palace and other strategic targets, said Gen. Luis Gomez, commander of the Bogota Metropolitan Police.

Police said Wednesday they became aware of the rockets only after an "accidental grenade explosion" inside the house. Gomez said a FARC member had caused the explosion but he escaped before police arrived and no arrests were made.

The rebels were apparently planning a repeat of their attack on Uribe's 2002 inauguration, when they fired a salvo of rockets at the presidential palace from a nearby apartment, killing 19 people and wounding dozens.

An Associated Press reporter visiting the scene Wednesday saw that the Tuesday night explosion had torn the roof, windows and doors off the freshly painted pink house in the impoverished Las Cruces neighborhood of Bogota, which sits on a hill overlooking the presidential palace.

A man and a woman from out of town bought the home about three months ago, said Adriana Gallego, 39, who lives next door.

On Monday night, an explosion ripped through a convoy carrying Senator German Vargas, known for his hardline policies on drug traffickers, wounding nine people in northern Bogota. Vargas was saved from injury or death by his bulletproof car.

Vargas told a session of Congress late Tuesday that his government-provided protection was insufficient. "If the government can't guarantee my security, I will have to leave the country," he said. Uribe told RCN radio Wednesday that Vargas had been assigned 19 bodyguards and three escort cars, but acknowledged intelligence and reconnaissance failures. Three of his bodyguards were wounded in the attack, AP reports.

А. А.

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