Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two Killed in Bolivian Hotel Explosion; American Suspect Held

President Morales Shown Above

Two people have been killed in an explosion in a hotel in Bolivia's main city, La Paz.

The blast, close to government headquarters, occurred late on Tuesday. Hours later, another hotel in the city was rocked by an explosion.

Several buildings were damaged and at least five people are known to have been injured in the two explosions.

Officials said two foreigners had been detained over the blasts, believed to have been caused by explosives.

Attorney General Jorge Gutierrez said a Uruguayan woman and an American man had been arrested at a hotel in El Alto, 12km (seven miles) outside La Paz.

The first explosion rocked the Linares hotel on Wednesday at 2150 local time (0150 GMT).

Local media say the fatal victims were a young couple. The man was killed instantly, and the woman died later in hospital.

The blast destroyed two floors of the hotel and the windows of surrounding buildings.

The second explosion reportedly occurred at 0145 local time (0545 GMT) at the Riosinho hotel and also caused extensive damage to properties in the area.

Police suspect plastic explosives may have been used.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/22 13:27:24 GMT

Thursday March 23, 7:09 AM

Two die in Bolivia hotel bombing; American arrested

AFP Report

Two people were killed and seven injured in two powerful bomb blasts at La Paz hotels that authorities have blamed on a US explosives vendor.

Police detained US national Claudio Lestad D'Orleans, 27 and his wife, Uruguayan Alba Riveiros, 40, as suspects in the late Tuesday and early Wednesday bombings that ripped through two modest hotels in downtown La Paz and damaged nearby buildings.

The first blast, which leveled two floors of the Linares hotel in the La Paz tourist area, killed two, injured seven, and damaged at least ten nearby homes.

The second blast four hours later was at the humble Riosinho inn, located in a residential area ten blocks away from the presidential palace. The explosion lifted off the inn roof and damaged two nearby buildings.

Police however received an anonymous telephone tip before the blast and evacuated the 19 tourists at the hotel.

Prosecutor Jorge Gutierrez said the blasts were caused by dynamite, sold for mining in Bolivia.

The head of Bolivia's national police, General Isaac Pimentel, held a press conference to said the explosions may have had "religious motives," then described the US suspect as someone who partakes in "pagan rituals".

He also said police found a document on the couple describing a plot to bomb the Chilean consulate on Saturday.

La Paz has had tense relations with Santiago ever since Bolivia lost its sea coast to Chile in an 1879 war.

The Uruguayan suspect lashed out at her husband as she was taken away by police.

"My husband is a bastard, he should be killed," Riveiros cried out to the local news media as she was taken to a jail.

"I didn't do anything. My husband did. It is an outrage what my husband did," she claimed.

D'Orleans had registered at a La Paz hotel as a Saudi citizen, according to the hotel management.

President Evo Morales, a fierce critic of the United States, was outrage that a US national was arrested in the case.

"There is a battle against terrorism and the government of the United States is sending Americans to do terrorism in Bolivia," the president said at an event in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

"A US citizen placing bombs in hotels ... What is happening?"
he asked.

Police said that D'Orleans had been living in the city of Potosi for some time, selling explosives, fireworks and liquor. They also said he has claimed to be an admirer of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"Interests in upper class groups in Bolivia are behind these two attacks," Morales claimed, "and they are using agents from abroad to generate fear, to create unrest, to then say that the government cannot control Bolivia."

Morales, a leftist former coca farmers union leader who took office in January, has called for a special assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution that would potentially make huge economic changes in the country.

The attacks "are an affront to Bolivia's democracy, and a provocation against the national government," he said.

He then accused Bolivian landowners of involvement, and rallied supporters to defend his government, elected with a solid margin in December elections.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera called the incident "alarming but isolated" and said it would "not affect the stability of the country nor the government."

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