ATHENS, Greece -- A explosion ripped through a Greek air force bus carrying 25 U.S. military personnel Friday, injuring nine servicemen and two other people, police said.
In Washington, President Reagan said his initial information was that a rocket hit the bus.
'Several of our military personnel were injured. Apparently there was a rocket attack on a bus taking them to a military airport. No one has claimed, or taken the blame,' he said.
A police spokesman in Athens said a bomb hidden on a railroad crossing was detonated when the bus passed over its wire connection 300 yards away. Witnesses said the blast ripped out the bottom of the bus, smashed its windows and left a blackened crater.
The spokesman said police have launched a manhunt for two men in overalls who fled the scene of the explosion in a stolen car shortly after the afternoon blast.
The explosion injured eight American servicemen and one service woman, the 20-year-old Greek driver of the bus and a 37-year-old passing motorist, police said. Witnesses said the explosion ripped out the bottom of the bus, smashed its windows and opened a blackened crater on the railway crossing.
The U.S. air force personnel were heading for the U.S. Hellenikon Air Base near Athens airport after a day's work at the Elefsis Greek air force base, about 20 miles west of Athens.
Flying debris struck nearby vehicles, severly damaging one car and injuring its driver.
Ambulances from Hellenikon rushed to the scene shortly after the blast and transported the injured Americans to a military hospital within the base compound.
'The Americans use a Greek air force bus for security reasons,' a police source said. 'They go along the same route at the same time every weekday.'
A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to name the injured Americans, citing the federal Privacy Act.
Police said November 17, a Greek leftist terrorist organization, used a similar device with a 100-yard wire on Nov. 26, 1985, to blow up a bus carrying Greek riot police. One officer was killed and 20 injured in the blast.
Nov. 17 also claimed responsibility for the assassination in 1975 of Athens CIA Station Chief Richard Welch.
The group claimed responsibility for the assassination of a U.S. Navy captain, George Tsantes, in November 1983 and for an attempt to assassinate U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Judd.
A bomb explosion in a coastal Athens bar frequented by U.S. military personnel in Feb. 1985 injured 70 Americans. The National Front, an extreme right organization, claimed responsibility for the blast.