Colombian president survives attack on helicopter

In this photo released by Colombia's Presidency, bullet holes are seen on the fuselage of a Colombian Air Force helicopter that was fired on while carrying Colombian President Ivan Duque and members of his cabinet, at the airport in Cucuta, Colombia, June 25, 2021. (CESAR CARRION / PRESIDENCY OF COLOMBIA VIA AP)

BOGOTA – A helicopter carrying Colombia's President Ivan Duque and others was struck by multiple bullets in an attack on Friday, he said in a video message.

The incident took place while the president's helicopter was flying through Colombia's Catatumbo region toward the city of Cucuta, capital of the country's Norte de Santander province, Duque said.

What's clear is that this is a cowardly attack where bullet holes can be seen in the presidential aircraft.

Ivan Duque, Colombian president

"What's clear is that this is a cowardly attack where bullet holes can be seen in the presidential aircraft," Duque said.

As well as Duque, the helicopter was carrying other officials including Defense Minister Diego Molano, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios, and governor of Norte de Santander Silvano Serrano.

No one was injured in the incident, a spokesman for the presidency said.

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Security personnel have been given clear instructions to find those behind the attack on the helicopter, the president added.

In this photo released by Colombia's Presidency, President Ivan Duque (center) speaks, flanked by Interior Minster Daniel Palacios (left) and Defense Minister Diego Molano, in Cucuta, Colombia, June 25, 2021. (CESAR CARRION / PRESIDENCY OF COLOMBIA VIA AP)

The troubled Catatumbo region, on Colombia's border with Venezuela, is home to extensive coca crops, the chief ingredient of cocaine. It is where guerrillas of the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) operate, former FARC fighters who reject a 2016 peace deal with the government, along with armed criminal groups involved in drug trafficking.

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This month a car bomb was detonated at a military base used by the 30th Army Brigade in Cucuta, injuring Colombian troops and US military advisers.

While Molano said the attack could have been carried out by the ELN, the rebel group said it denied having any role in the bombing.