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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 two people and injuring dozens, police said.

Police Capt. Wicus Holzhausen said 46 people were being treated at two hospitals in Worcester, 60 miles northeast of Cape Town.

A doctor at Eben Donges hospital in Worcester earlier said more than 70 people were being treated there, but later revised the figure to about 35. Dr. Helise Schumann said a 6-year-old child had died at the hospital of severe head injuries, and that five others were in serious condition.

Eleven people were being treated for mostly minor injuries at another clinic in Worcester, the South African Press Association reported.

Holzhausen said a bomb exploded in the early afternoon of Christmas Eve in a grocery store in Worcester. At the same time, two hand grenades were set off on the street outside the store, he said.

A few minutes later, 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.

Police barricaded the grocery store where the explosions occurred and refused to let journalists inside. There was no damage visible from the outside, where scores of police officers patrolled and small groups of bystanders looked on.

It was not immediately clear who set off the explosions or why. 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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