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Six U.S. Soldiers Still Hospitalized After Grenade Attack

March 5, 1990

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Six U.S. soldiers remained hospitalized after a grenade attack on a discotheque in Panama City that killed one serviceman, the U.S. military said today.

The Southern Command said three of the soldiers were scheduled for release today. Hospital officials said three Panamanians also injured in the attack were in intensive care, but in stable condition.

A Southern Command statement said Army Spec. Anthony B. Ward, 21, of Houston, died Saturday of chest and abdomen wounds. He died at the U.S. military’s Gorgas Hospital in Panama City.

Ward was among 16 American servicemen and 12 Panamanians injured late Friday in the attack on the disco My Place, which was known to be frequented by Americans.

A Southern Command news release said seven servicemen were released late Sunday. Two were released last week.

The statement identified those scheduled to be released later today as Spc. Ronald Sallis, 22, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Curtis, 26, of Shelby, N.C., and Airman 1st Class Joseph Pelletier, 20, of Bucksport, Maine.

Witnesses said two men yelling ″Long live Noriega 3/8″ threw a grenade through a glass wall of the disco at about 11:30 p.m., then sped away in a car. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. It was the first such attack on U.S. soldiers in Panama since the Dec. 20 invasion that ousted dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Panamanian police said they had questioned several witnesses to the bombing but announced no arrests.

Although organized resistance to the invasion died out quickly and Noriega’s Defense Forces have been disbanded, Panamanian officials have said Noriega’s paramilitary groups could resurface. Officials believe large caches of weapons are hidden around the country.

The attack occurred hours after Noriega’s wife, three daughters and grandson left Panama for Cuba. As they left Panama City, they were surrounded by hundreds of hecklers. They have since arrived in the Dominican Republic, which offered the family asylum.

Noriega is awaiting trial on drug charges in Miami, where he was taken after surrendering to U.S. authorities on Jan. 3 after hiding out in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.