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Grenade Blast Near American-Costa Rican Cultural Center Injures Six

April 20, 1988

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Two American women and four Costa Ricans were wounded by a fragmentation grenade that exploded near the American-Costa Rican Cultural Center, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which Public Security Minister Hernan Garron called ″a terrorist act.″

He said officials had no suspects.

The Intelligence and Security Directorate said the blast apparently was caused by an M-67 fragmentation grenade tossed onto a sidewalk near the Cultural Center. Three cars were damaged, its report said.

The blast occurred shortly after 8 a.m. (6 a.m. EDT) about 50 yards south of the Cultural Center building in the eastern Los Yoses district, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Mark Krischick. The building was not damaged, he said.

He said Tuesday night that U.S. officials had been unable to verify that the explosion was caused by a grenade. However, he noted that Costa Rican officials ″were collecting evidence all day.″

″We haven’t had the opportunity to review the evidence,″ Krischick said. Earlier Tuesday, Krischick had said the explosion was believed caused by a malfunctioning power line transformer.

Red Cross officials identified the wounded Americans as Alice Feister, a professor at the Cultural Center from the Washington, D.C. area, and Shelly Bartain, a student from California.

Hometowns and ages were not immediately available.

Feister underwent surgery for several hours at Calderon Guardia Hospital after suffering a severe artery wound. She was reported in fair condition Tuesday night and was ″expected to pull through,″ said Krischick.

Bartain suffered lacerations and bruises but was in good condition, Krischick said. She was expected to return to the United States today, a doctor at the hospital said.

The other wounded were identified as Alvaro Salas Parra, 23; William Quesada Solano, 22; Oscar Eric Bogantes, 17; and Virginia Sanchez Cruz, 26, all Costa Rican citizens.

Garron said evidence collected at the scene indicated the grenade was thrown onto a sidewalk near the Cultural Center, although it may have exploded beneath one of the three damaged cars parked near the Center.

Jorge Luis Ulate, an explosives expert with the security ministry, said the device appeared to be an M-67 fragmentation grenade, capable of inflicting serious damage up to a distance of 100 yards.

Ulate said the device normally would explode between two and six seconds after its pin is pulled.

By Tuesday night, police had not located any witnesses.

One person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said he was near the site, heard a loud explosion and later saw a cloud in the vicinity of the Cultural Center. He said one person next to the nearby Anglo- American school appeared to have been hurt by the blast.

President Oscar Arias visited the injured in the hospital and condemned the incident.

″This country, which is a haven of peace, one day could turn into a Costa Rica invaded by terrorism and violence if we don’t adopt energetic measures to prevent it,″ he said.

The explosion follows a violent demonstration April 7 in Honduras by students enraged by the forced extradition of a suspected drug dealer to the United States. The students sacked and burned the U.S. Consulate and offices of the U.S. Information Service in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.

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