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Dozens injured in explosions in shopping area on Christmas Eve

December 24, 1996

WORCESTER, South Africa (AP) _ A bomb and two hand grenades exploded in a crowded shopping area in this farming town outside Cape Town today, killing three people and injuring dozens, police said.

Just before the explosions, three men were seen speeding from the area in a red car, said Police Capt. Wicus Holzhausen.

The explosions apparently were caused by homemade time bombs, police Superintendent Leon Engelbrecht said. Police offered a $110,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the bombers.

The explosions occurred in a crowded grocery store in central Worcester, about 60 miles northeast of Cape Town, and outside a pharmacy, a few blocks from the grocery store, according to police and witnesses.

``I just heard a massive bang, and then there was something dripping out of my ear. It was blood,″ said pharmacist Harish Narotam, whose shop was damaged in the explosions.

A television journalist said the inside of the grocery store was in shambles.

``The place looked absolutely wrecked,″ said Brian Uranovsky of the South African Broadcasting Corp.

Scores of police patrolled outside the store following the explosions, with groups of bystanders looking on from outside police barricades.

Narotam told SAPA he was standing outside his shop when the second explosion occurred.

``The man behind me was screaming, and we managed to get him inside the pharmacy where we immediately dispensed first aid.″

A few minutes after the grenade explosions, police received a bomb threat for another store in the area, said Sgt. John Khumalo of the bomb squad in Worcester. He said a suspicious package was found but there had been no further explosions.

A doctor at Eben Donges hospital in Worcester confirmed the three deaths _ two children who died during treatment at the hospital and an adult killed at the scene and later brought to Eben Donges.

Dr. Helise Schumann said 49 injured people were being treated at the hospital, but that about 20 were expected to be released soon because their wounds were relatively minor.

At another hospital, the Worcester Medi-Clinic, an official said 18 people had been admitted for treatment of mostly minor injuries.

In October, a plastic explosive damaged a rail line running into the city but caused no injuries. No arrests were made in that case.

Worcester is a farming town in the wine country outside Cape Town. Its residents are mostly Afrikaners _ descendants of South Africa’s Dutch settlers _ and mixed-race people.

The town is in Western Cape province, the only province in South Africa to give majority support to the white-led National Party in the nation’s first all-race election in 1994. The National Party was in power during apartheid.

A National Party spokesman today condemned the explosions as a ``cowardly act.″

``The National Party calls on the security forces to leave no stone unturned in arresting the people responsible,″ spokesman Jan Bosman said.

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