SANTIAGO - A bomb rocked a food court inside a Santiago metro station on Monday, wounding seven people in a blast Chile's government called a "terrorist act."
The explosive device that ripped during lunch hour at Escuela Militar (Military School) station was made with a fire extinguisher and a clock and had been planted inside a trash can, officials said.
"It was a terrible scene. A woman was sprawled on the floor, clients ran out without paying, leaving food on their plates," Rosa Valdes, a restaurant worker, told AFP.
"I'm afraid to return to work tomorrow. I will have to look inside every trash can," Valdes said.
Silvana, a cook at a food stall next to the one hit by the explosive, said she saw people "wounded, bleeding, screaming, crying, taking pictures." "We never imagined that it was a bomb," she said at the station, which serves one of the most heavily used subway lines in the capital.
Nobody took immediate responsibility for the blast, which follows a string of unsolved small bombings in Chile that took place in uncrowded places.
Four women and three men were wounded in the blast, medical services said.
One of the women lost fingers in one hand. One of the men was identified as a Venezuelan who was struck in a knee, not an Argentine injured in the belly as initially reported.
None of the injuries are life-threatening, officials said.
"This is an act that has the hallmarks of a terrorist act. There is not doubt about that," said government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde, adding that the authorities would launch an "energetic response." President Michelle Bachelet held an emergency meeting and met three of the wounded at a clinic.
"What happened today is horrible, completely reprehensible," the socialist leader said. "But Chile is and will continue being a safe country." Authorities suspect the bomb was planted by two young people who fled in a car, said Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy.
"The government will not rest until these people are brought to justice. These people tried to kill innocent Chileans," said Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo.
More than 100 makeshift bombs have targeted banks, gyms, embassies and restaurants in Chile in the past five years, causing relatively light damage and injuries.
Past attacks have been claimed by groups using names of old anarchist groups. Nobody has been convicted in connection with the attacks.
After a lull, similar bombings have reemerged in recent months.
The government stepped up security after an explosive device blew up in a subway train on July 14 and a special prosecutor was named to investigate the attacks.
Francisco Bravo, the special prosecutor, said Monday's bomb was similar to the one used in the July attack.
The government said it would prosecute the latest attack under the country's anti-terror law, which allows courts to impose heavier sentences than in other crimes.
The president of the opposition National Renovation party, Cristian Monckeberg, said the latest attack "could have been avoided," adding that "a pattern is repeating itself" in these bombings.