BARCELONA, Spain -- A U.S. sailor died Sunday from injuries suffered in a grenade attack that wounded nine other sailors, and separatist guerrillas claimed responsibility for the terrorist strike on a waterfront USO club packed with servicemen.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Meade said Navy Seaman Ronald Strong, 20, of Reeders, Pa., died at Hospital del Mar about 4 a.m. of internal injuries suffered in the blast.
Nine other sailors were slightly wounded in the attack that ripped through the USO club about 6 p.m. Saturday, shattering windows, ripping out a water pipe and damaging a car parked nearby. The last of the wounded sailors was released from the hospital Sunday and returned to his ship, authorities said.
Authorities indicated they doubted the veracity of the claim of responsibility by the Catalonian Red Army of Liberation. A government spokesman said the grenades used in the attack were either Italian- or U.S.-made, leading police to believe the bombing was linked to what he called 'international terrorism.'
Police were searching for a young man, described as dark with curly hair, who witnesses said tossed two grenades into the USO club in the Mediterranean port city, 400 miles northeast of Madrid, and then fled into the narrow alleyways of Barcelona's ancient port district.
Barcelona Mayor Pasqual Maragal Sunday called the attack a 'detestable crime' and a 'barbarous attack directed at foreigners.'
Jose Perdera Mestre, owner of the La Iruna bar that rents out space to the USO club, said the bar's manager described the attack to him.
'She said that a young man entered the bar and in a heavy foreign accent and not speaking very good Spanish asked for tobacco,' Mestre said. 'After she told him we do not sell cigarettes, he walked out, then threw the grenades into the entryway.'
Mestre said between 25 and 30 people -- mostly American servicemen - were in the club when the attack occurred.
The sailors were from the USS Thorn and frigate USS Donald B. Beary, which arrived in Barcelona Friday. The two ships canceled shore leave for sailors and flew their American flags at half-mast Sunday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona said he was uncertain when Strong's body would be returned to the United States. He said the body had to undergo an autopsy and would probably be shipped out Monday or Tuesday from the U.S.-operated Torrejon Air Base in Spain.
Families who lived above the bar in the four-story building said the bar's door had been plastered with anti-American slogans for some time before the explosion. They said they had feared the bar -- a popular drinking spot for sailors on shore leave -- would be attacked.
'We are saddened and angered that unarmed and off-duty sailors celebrating the holidays were attacked by terrorists,' State Department spokesman Ben Justesen said in Washington.
'It has not been possible to determine who carried out this attack or why they did it,' Justesen said. 'Since we have not been able to determine who was responsible, we can't attribute any motives.'
Justesen declined comment on anti-American feelings in Spain or possible links the attack may have to U.S.-Spain negotiations on American bases remaining in Spain.
In a call to the Spanish news agency EFE, a woman took responsibilty for the attack in the name of the Catalonian Red Army of Liberation. She said the group was responsible for 'the military action carried out on the night of December 26 against an establishment of the Yankee war marines.'
'We doubt and question the authenticity of the claim because this is not the way that group usually takes responsibilty,' a policeman said, noting that in the past the organization has made their claims to Catalan-language media.
Regional separatist groups in Barcelona also have used home-made devices in previous attacks.
Officials said they know little about the separatists who have claimed four attacks against American targets in Barcelona since surfacing in May when they claimed responsibility for an explosion outside the offices of General Electric.
The separatists, who have never released a statement outlining their political views, set off a bomb a month later at the Barcelona offices of Hewlett-Packard. In October they claimed the bombing of the U.S. Consulate in which eight people were wounded.
The October attack also was claimed by a rival separatist group Terra Lluire -- or Free Land in the Catalan language -- that officials say the Catalonian Red Army split from this year.
The four provinces of Catalonia in northeast Spain have their own language and culture and the people are highly nationalistic.
'The Red Army's focus on American interests may mean that they perceive the United States to be the main threat to Catalan nationalism,' said Antonio Pique, a Barcelona journalist who covers the groups for the La Vanguardia newspaper.
Pete Cecere, U.S. Consulate information officer in Barcelona, said anti-Americanism was evident in the port city, mostly from leftist groups pushing for the United States to dismantle its military bases in Spain.
'But it is no stronger than in other parts of Spain. It's the fashionable thing, that's all,' Cecere said.
Barcelona was the scene of the worst terrorist attack in Spain when a car bomb set off at a crowded supermarket in June by the Basque separatist group ETA killed 21 people.