March 22, 2006

Two die in Bolivian hotel blasts, foreigners held

By Mario Roque

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Twin bomb blasts tore through
two budget hotels and killed two people in La Paz overnight,
and Bolivian officials said they questioned two foreigners,
including one American, in connection with the attacks on

Local television reports, citing police sources, said the
American was a 27-year-old Californian man with mental health
problems who was suspected of links to other violent incidents.

The U.S. Embassy in La Paz confirmed that the suspect was
an American, but declined further comment.

The blasts devastated the downtown hotels, blowing out
windows in neighboring buildings and showering debris across
the surrounding streets.

The first explosion occurred around 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday,
killing two people and injuring four others, firefighters said.
The second blast came four hours later.

"There was a massive explosion and the building was
practically destroyed," a man staying at the second hotel told
Reuters by phone as he stood in the street in his pajamas.

"No one was hurt because the police evacuated the hotel
about 10 minutes before," he added, asking not to be named.

Officials have not yet named the victims, but a medical
worker said a young American woman and a Colombian were among
the injured.

Soon after the second explosion, police arrested the two
suspects in the city of El Alto, which borders La Paz.

"Both were carrying cartridges of dynamite and detonators.
The woman is Uruguayan and the man says he is from the United
States. We are gathering information from immigration to
establish when they entered the country," La Paz prosecutor
Jorge Gutierrez told reporters.

Local television reports said the 27-year-old man and the
46-year-old Uruguayan woman had been distributing calendars
advertising an explosives export company.

The calendars carried a photo of a naked woman, who the
television reports said was the woman suspect.

Earlier, Bolivian President Evo Morales -- a leftist who
regularly criticizes Washington -- said the bombings seemed
politically motivated and decried that one of the suspects
appeared to be from the United States.

"The U.S. government fights against terrorism; it's not
possible that people from the United States come to put bombs
in hotels," Morales said in speech in the eastern city of Santa

(With additional reporting by Helen Popper)