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1 Dead, 24 Hurt in Bombing at S. Africa Planet Hollywood

August 26, 1998| From Associated Press

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A bomb exploded inside a crowded Planet Hollywood restaurant here Tuesday, killing one person and injuring 24. A man claiming responsibility said the blast was in retaliation for U.S. attacks on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan last week.

The caller to the radio station Cape Talk claimed responsibility on behalf of a group called Muslims Against Global Oppression, said Marianne Merten, a journalist at the station. A spokesman for the group, Mogammat Achmat, in comments to the South African Broadcasting Corp., denied that his organization was involved.

In Washington, the State Department said the group was anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli. It was unknown to the department's counter-terrorism office until it staged a demonstration at the vacant Israeli diplomatic office in Cape Town in July 1997, officials said. The marchers at that demonstration shouted angry slogans aimed at Israel.

Some members of the group were among the 40 or so people who protested U.S. policies on Iraq and Israel during President Clinton's visit to Cape Town in March.

Police Senior Supt. John Sterrenberg said the device exploded at 7:20 p.m. inside Planet Hollywood, which was packed with diners. He confirmed that one woman was killed. Her nationality and those of the injured were not immediately known.

A witness who had been at the ground-floor bar in the two-story Hollywood-theme restaurant described a horrific scene.

"I saw people without limbs," Bertie Liebenberg, who was visiting from Johannesburg, told the South African Press Assn. "Decor on the ceiling came crashing down and crashed onto people, tables and chairs."

Roger Sedres, a photographer, said he heard the explosion as he drove past the restaurant, then saw the wounded come streaming out.

One woman sat outside the restaurant, her head in her hands, screaming "Oh God, please tell me my legs are still there," Sedres said. The woman's legs were intact.

Rescue workers brought out another woman who was motionless, her legs mangled.

Police cordoned off the restaurant in the trendy Victoria and Albert Waterfront.

Nico Smuts, spokesman for Leisurenet, the franchise holders of Planet Hollywood, said the Cape Town branch was wholly South African-owned.

Matt Hallman, a spokesman for Planet Hollywood, which is based in Orlando, Fla., said the company was investigating.

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