SANTIAGO – Fourteen people were arrested Saturday on suspicion of taking part in at least 23 bomb attacks on various districts of Santiago, officials said.
The capture of the suspects, known to have ties to anarchist groups, took place in three simultaneous raids carried out in the wee hours of Saturday in Santiago and Valparaiso.
Most of the suspects were arrested in downtown Santiago, while others were nabbed in other districts of Santiago and in the nearby city of Valparaiso.
Besides detailing the number of arrests, the prosecutor of the case, Alejandro Peña, also said that another hideout was raided in the Santiago suburb of Pudahuel.
According to Gen. Bruno Villalobos of the intelligence agency of the Carabineros militarized police force, “scientific” evidence exists of the connection between those in custody and the succession of attacks that for several years have been perpetrated in Santiago and other cities.
Among the evidence pointing to their guilt were traces of TNT on the hands and clothing of three of those under arrest, according to the prosecutor, who added that there is other proof that implicates “six” of the suspects as perpetrators of the attacks.
The raids were carried out by Carabineros agents with helicopter support.
Only three of the detainees have been identified up to now: Pablo Morales, Rodolfo Retamales and Andrea Urzua.
The first two are former members of the Lautaro Group, a far-left organization that fought against the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, while the woman was caught several years ago trying to smuggle explosives into a jail in the Argentine city of Neuquen, where some of her friends were imprisoned.
“This culminates a long, wide-ranging work of investigation that allowed us to catch a significant number of those involved in assembling and installing explosive devices,” Gen. Villalobos told reporters.
For several years, Chile has been hit by attacks with low-power homemade bombs using fire extinguishers filled with explosives and claimed in many cases to have been the work of anarchist groups under different names.
The most recent bombs, which were defused by police before exploding, were planted in a restaurant on Aug. 6 in the affluent Santiago neighborhood of Vitacura and, the day before, in a plaza near the summer residence of Chile’s presidents in the city of Viña del Mar.
Some time ago a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the attacks, which up to now have taken the life of a young anarchist, who was blown up and killed last year by a bomb he was carrying in his backpack while bicycling down a street in Santiago.
Those in custody were taken to a police station and are to appear before a court that will define the procedure for their trials.
According to Peña, the detainees will be accused “of the crime of illicit terrorist association and of planting explosive devices in order to spread fear among the population.”
Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter considered the operations “very good news for the government and principally for Chilean men and women.”