Mystery terrorist attacks rattle S.America’s safest capital

A view of downtown Santiago, Chile. (Pixabay pic)

SANTIAGO: Chilean police are scratching their heads over who sent two sophisticated package bombs Thursday without claiming responsibility or making any demands.

The first bomb exploded at a police station in northern Santiago, leaving five policemen hospitalized. The second was intercepted at the headquarters of Quinenco SA, one of the holding companies through which Chile’s richest family controls Banco de Chile.

One possibility is that the bombs are the work of a shadowy group that goes by the name of Individualists Trending Toward the Wild, or ITS, which has claimed earlier bombings in Chile as well as attacks in Mexico and Brazil. They call themselves eco-extremists, but what exactly they want is unclear.

“We are facing a cruel, implacable and powerful enemy,” President Sebastian Pinera said on Friday as he visited the bombed police station. “Investigations take time, but we will be successful in arresting, judging and convicting” the people responsible.

Yesterday’s bomb at the police station used “industrial powder,” while the one sent to Quinenco had dynamite, which wasn’t used in the previous attacks in Chile, according to the local press.

In 2017, a bomb exploded at the house of Oscar Landerretche, then chairman of Chile’s state-owned copper miner Codelco, injuring him and two other people. While ITS claimed responsibility for the attack, Landerretche said he doubted their participation.

In January though, another artifact exploded at a bus station in central Santiago, leaving five injured, and in May a bomb that didn’t explode was delivered to the home of Metro chairman Louis de Grange. In both cases, ITS claimed responsibility.

The attacks have left tension running high in Chile, the safest country in South America. On Friday, the head of human resources at Codelco’s Gabriela Mistral mine, Francisco Marin, was arrested at the airport in the city of Calama after joking about having a “bomb”. He was immediately fired, according to a company statement.

A metro station was also closed down Thursday as police investigated an abandoned suitcase. No explosive was found.

On Friday, Pinera called for congress to speed up approval of his government’s anti-terror bill. The bill allows police to use some of the measures they already have to fight drug trafficking and money laundering, such as intercepting communications and planting undercover agents.