BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Catholic bishop of Arauca in Colombia's northeast has been assassinated, apparently by leftist rebels, police said Wednesday, and another bomb apparently linked to the drug war exploded in the capital.
Bishop Jesus Jaramillo Monsalve, 72, was assassinated Tuesday along with a priest, and the Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the churchmen were killed by the National Liberation Army (ELN), which has operated in the area for some 20 years and is led by an ex-priest.
Meanwhile, some 15 homes and offices were damaged Tuesday night when unidentified assailants hurled a bomb from a passing motorcycle at a video recorder shop, destroying the business and blowing out windows in surrounding buildings, police reported.
More than 55 bombs have gone off in the capital in the last three weeks. Though the police have not captured anyone in the spree, authorities have blamed hit men hired by the cocaine cartels.
On Aug. 24 a cartel-linked hit squad declared 'total war' on the nation and began a bombing spree, killing at least eight people, wounding hundreds and causing millions of dollars in material damage.
Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court ruled that extradition and confiscation of properties obtained with drug money was constitutional. The measures are the backbone of the country's war against the cartels.
A string of assassinations in July and August attributed to the drug traffickers prompted President Virgilio Barco to declare a state-of-siege and re-establish extradition of wanted drug kingpins to the United States on Aug. 18.
Since then one trafficker, Eduardo Martinez Romero, was extradited on Sept. 6, and millions of dollars of properties allegedly belonging to cartel leaders have been confiscated. Another cartel member, Ana Elena Zuniga, is expected to be turned over to U.S. authorities within days.
There were no indications that the assassinations of Jaramillo, who was the head of the Catholic Church in Arauco, and Father Jose Munoz Pareja were linked to the drug war.
The nation's Catholic leaders traveled to Arauca Wednesday to attend the funerals of Jaramillo and Munoz.
The priests had been kidnapped Monday, and their bodies were found Tuesday morning in a rural area near the Venezuelan border, authorities said.
The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Mario Revollo Obravo, told RCN Radio Wednesday there was 'no explanation' for the assassination, which 'caused profound pain ... within the Church.'
Also Wednesday, the Bogota daily newspaper El Espectador reported new personnel reinforcements for the overloaded Public Order Court, which under the state-of-siege must evaluate the more than 2,000 cases of narcotics traffic and terrorism accumulated in the past month.
The court will receive 12 lawyers, 13 accountants, engineers, computer programmers and several assistants, the newspaper said.