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Mar 24, 2006 | 02:47 GMT

3 mins read

Bombing in Bolivia: No Sign of Terrorism

A bomb exploded at a small, low-budget hotel in La Paz, Bolivia, on March 21, killing a Bolivian couple and wounding at least seven people. Hours later, a bomb detonated at another small hotel about a mile from the first, though guests and staff, alerted by the burning fuse, already had evacuated. Although one of the two suspects apprehended in the case, an American man, was carrying written notes about attacking the Chilean Consulate — and told Bolivian police he is a follower of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — the targets were too insignificant to be part of a terrorist plot. Police have concluded that the American suspect is mentally disturbed. Had the bombers been part of a terrorist cell aiming to damage Bolivia's tourism industry, they would have focused on a larger, Western-owned hotel, not guesthouses frequented by backpackers and adventurers. The targets in this case — the Residencial Riosinho and the Linares Guesthouse — were small, locally owned businesses. Furthermore, given Bolivia's recent political turmoil, it is more reasonable to expect an attacker to target a political, rather than a commercial, target. Police identified the suspects as Claudio Lestad and his Uruguayan girlfriend, though documents in Lestad's possession also identify him as Lestat Claudius de Orleans y Montevideo. The pair, who had distributed calendars advertising their services for the sale and export of explosives, fireworks and liquor, was arrested shortly after the attacks in the suburb of El Alto, a large barrio inhabited by criminals, drifters and other unsavory elements about seven miles outside of La Paz. While being interviewed by Bolivian police, Lestad expressed disappointment that his blast killed only two people. His true identity is unclear at this point, but Lestad has used multiple aliases and claimed various addresses in the Bolivian town of Potosi as well as in California and Washington state. He claims to be a Wiccan high priest and makes a point of proclaiming to have been kicked out of most Latin American countries. Using the name Tristan Jay Amero, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the governing board of the El Dorado County Union High School in Placerville, Calif., getting 5.4 percent of the vote. Latin American cities have no shortage of foreign drifters and adventures, often short on money, and sometimes on the wrong side of the law. The mentally disturbed among this group could be prone to influence by local criminals, and could be used as couriers or unwitting suicide bombers. In the case of the La Paz bombings, the lack of security of the hotels made them a relatively easy target.

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