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Everyone 'safe' after Colombia president's helicopter attacked

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By Euronews with AP
President Ivan Duque speaks, flanked by Interior Minster Daniel Palacios, left, and Defence Minister Diego Molano, in Cucuta, Colombia, Friday, June 25, 2021.
President Ivan Duque speaks, flanked by Interior Minster Daniel Palacios, left, and Defence Minister Diego Molano, in Cucuta, Colombia, Friday, June 25, 2021.   -   Copyright  Cesar Carrion/Presidency of Colombia via AP
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Colombian President Iván Duque said that everyone was safe after a helicopter carrying him and several senior officials came under fire in a region bordering Venezuela.

Defence Minister Diego Molano, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios and the governor of Norte de Santander state, Silvano Serrano were also on board the helicopter that was attacked in the southern Catatumbo region.

“I want to inform the country that after fulfilling a commitment in Sardinata, in Catatumbo approaching the city of Cúcuta, the presidential helicopter was the victim of an attack,” the president said in a statement.

The event marked a rare instance of an attack on a presidential aircraft.

The officials had just attended an event titled “Peace with Legality, the Sustainable Catatumbo chapter.”

Duque said the helicopter’s equipment and capabilities “prevented something lethal from happening.”

The Colombian presidency released video showing bullet holes in the air force helicopter.

Duque did not provide the time of the attack or say who he believed carried it out, but several armed groups are known to operate in the area.

The president said the “cowardly” attack would not make him stop fighting drug trafficking, terrorism and organised crime.

"The message is that Colombia is always strong in the face of crime and our institutions are above any threat," he said.

Cúcuta, where the flight was headed, was already on a security alert after a June 14 car bomb attack at a military base that caused 36 injuries to both members of the military and civilians.

Colombian authorities suspect dissidents from the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas or the rebel National Liberation Army were behind the attack. The latter has denied being behind the attack.

In 2018, when the conservative Duque began his presidency, the government said it was investigating “possible attacks” being planned against the president at a public event. The attacks never materialised.