Bomb blast in Cape Town restaurant injures 48

ONE WOMAN lost a leg and several children were believed to have been among up to 48 people who were injured when a bomb exploded yesterday afternoon in a popular Cape Town pizza restaurant.

A South African police spokesman indicated that there was one foreigner, whose nationality was not known, among the victims at the popular St Elmo's pizza restaurant in the beach-side suburb of Camps Bay, south of Cape Town. The other victims were described by the hospitals treating them as suffering from shrapnel injuries, mainly to the legs. This morning, one person remained in critical condition.

After early reports of a gas explosion, police confirmed that a pipe bomb, increasingly seen as the hallmark of gangs on the lawless Cape Flats, had been used. No group claimed responsibility and the Islamist- affiliated Pagad (People Against Gangsterism And Drugs) denied involvement.

Cape Flats gangs, who rule the impoverished plain behind the picturesque city, have been blamed for a number of recent bomb attacks. The most high- profile bombing, in August 1998, was at a Planet Hollywood restaurant in Cape Town. It claimed two lives and followed attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Yesterday's bomb was the eighth in the Cape Town area this year. Last year, the city, including several of its police stations, was targeted 68 times, prompting police to set up a unit to combat urban terror. In general, the attacks have no clear motive and no one claims responsibility. There is speculation that they are linked to extortion rackets.

Earlier this month, six people were injured when a pipe bomb exploded at gay bar in the city, called The Blah.

The blast at St Elmo's, which is in a small shopping arcade, happened shortly after 4pm local time (2pm British time) and showered glass across the single carriageway road separating Camps Bay's shops from the sandy beach. It was a fine summer's day in the area and many people would have been strolling in the sunshine or watching the surfers who frequent the beach.

According to some reports, the bomb was concealed in a plastic bag and detonated by a mobile phone. There were reports that another establishment in the precinct had received a threatening call.

The blast comes as the summer tourist season in the Western Cape is about to reach its peak, with numerous high-profile events planned for the millennium. Among visitors expected in the city this week is the Dalai Lama, heading the 6,000-delegate Parliament of World Religions.

One of the first people at the scene of yesterday's bombing, Brad Geyser, of South African National Sea Rescue, said the device was wrapped in a plastic bag. He said at least seven children were among the injured.

"There were six people lying on the pavement, one was critical, she had had her leg blown off. Others were running around shouting that there were some seriously injured in the restaurant. I went in using a torch. The ceiling was hanging down. All the windows were blown out,'' he said.

A police spokesman said: "It was a pipe bomb hidden in a plastic bag under one of the tables in the middle of the restaurant." He said police could not be certain about the motive for the attack, and added that there had been no credible claim of responsibility or any sort of warning.

A spokeswoman for City Park Hospital, which 15 months ago dealt with most of the victims of the Planet Hollywood bomb, said 20 people from the Camps Bay blast had been brought in for treatment. "We have taken five patients in overnight. The rest have been sent home,'' she said.

Another hospital, the N1 City Clinic, said it was treating a 21-year- old St Elmo's employee for shrapnel injuries to both legs.

Camps Bay, an upmarket area south of Cape Town, has one of the city's most beautiful beaches, visited at weekends by people of all backgrounds. St Elmo's is part of a chain of Cape Town-owned restaurants.

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