In the wake of Monday’s subway bombing that injured 14 in the capital of Santiago, Chile’s government has invoked a dictatorship-era anti-terrorism act that will allow more extreme tactics in the pursuit of those responsible for the most serious attack of 2014.
At 2 p.m. Monday, an explosive artifact detonated in an underground mall attached to the Escuela Militar subway station, which sees more than 120,000 commuters pass through each day. Fourteen people were injured, including one Peruvian and one Venezuelan citizen. At least three of the injured suffered serious injuries, but all of the victims are expected to survive.
The bomb was placed in a trash can outside a fast food restaurant in the Sub Centro subterranean shopping center. The explosive was equipped with a timer, allowing it to be detonated remotely or set to go off at a certain time, according to Christian Toledo, the government official responsible for investigating bombings. According to Santiago police, the bomb was similar to two other bombs that have been detonated in recent months in other public places in the city, including another subway station.
Authorities have not yet identified any suspects in the bombing, but say that security camera footage shows evidence of at least one suspect placing an object in a trash can about 20 minutes before the detonation. Initial testimony from witnesses mentioned seeing two individuals near the trash can, but this number has not been confirmed by police. According to Undersecretary of the Interior Mahmud Aleuy, authorities have identified a suspected getaway car and are continuing the investigation from there.
President Michelle Bachelet called the bombing “abominable” and a clear “act of terrorism.” She promised the Chilean government would use “the full weight of the law” to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, but urged Chileans to remain calm, saying that Chile continues to be a safe country.
There have been almost 30 successful or attempted bombings in Santiago this year alone, and around 200 such attacks attributed to anarchist groups since 2005. However, this most recent incident marks an evolution in the tactics behind the bombings, which have typically been small explosions during off-peak hours that have not caused any injuries.
The Escuela Militar explosion, which occurred in the middle of the workday when the station and mall were full of commuters and people on their lunch break, is being called Chile’s most serious terrorist attack since democracy returned to the country in 1990.
The attacks throughout the last decade have been attributed to several dozen different anarchist groups. Chile’s judicial system has been slow to respond, with just 11 people facing charges for the different bombings and only one of those individuals serving prison time. As of now, no group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack.
In response to the Escuela Militar attack, the government has activated an anti-terrorism law that dates back to the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and has convened a special security council that will meet Tuesday.
Bachelet and Minister of the Interior Rodrigo Peñailillo have also announced that the government expects to present modifications or a new anti-terrorist law by the end of the month. In the meantime, the controversial current legislation permits the government to hold suspects in isolation and push for extended sentences, and allows the use of phone taps and secret witnesses.
“The government will not rest until those responsible are in jail,” Peñailillo said.
On Tuesday morning, Santiago’s subway was functioning as usual, filled with commuters under the watchful eyes of extra police details stationed at most of the stops. The city’s transportation authority also took the step of covering trash cans throughout the stations to prevent any copycat incidents.