Littered shells kill 15 people in Kashmir this year

Wednesday, 21 September 2011  KUPWARA: A teenage boy injured due to littered shell is being shifted to hospital. With the death of a teenage boy and a middle-aged man in frontier Kupwara district on Tuesday, the death toll due to littered shells in the Kashmir valley, since the beginning of the year, has reached to fifteen.

Watching his neighbour hammer the scrap cost death for Mudasir Ahmad Khan, 14, yesterday in the afternoon in Maidanpora village of the district. The scrap vendor, Ali Mohammad Bhat, 45, too could not survive the explosion.

The incident took place about half kilometer from a gun-battle site in the region. Sources, in the police, say despite a rigorous sanitizing drive by the men in uniform, the accident that killed two people and left six injured, could not be averted.

At about 12 pm, Bhat returned to his shop after collecting scrap from the vicinity. It was half an hour later that he started to pound the scrap. Some school children including Mudasir and few locals watched the scene. Moments later, sources say, a shell went off leaving the two people dead on spot.

Among the six injured, two of them Rayees Ahmad Mir, 14, and Shaheena, 30, are said to be in a serious condition. The injured include four school going girls, however, their condition is said to be stable.

The place of blast falls half a kilometer away from the gun-battle site where government forces claimed to have killed three top militants. The house in which militants were hiding was leveled using heavy mortar shells, sources say.

SDPO, Sogam, Noor Mohammad, says the deaths were caused due to 'human error'.

“After the gun-battle ended in the Village recently, police led six combing operations to clear off the village from such shells,” he says, adding that his department even impressed upon people to inform their nearest police station in case they find any abandoned material without touching it.

The state government had in June asked drafting an updated Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to avoid loss of human life in blasts due to non-clearance of debris at gun fight sites.
Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani had convened a high-level meeting to discuss drafting and updating of the SOP to tackle the aftermath of the gun-battles.

Wani had asked all District Magistrates and senior police officials to sensitise people to avoid venturing into any post-encounter site unless debris is fully cleared, he said. Several civilians, including children, have been killed due to explosions as people cleared the debris of the houses and structures damaged in gun-battles.

However, such precautions are generally overlooked upon by people involved in the scrap trade, sources say. More so in a region where earning a decent living is hard to do, they add.

They says due to the lucrative nature of the scrap trade many overlook such risks that many a times cost them death.

However, not only scrap dealers, but also the children, who visit the ravaged gun-battle sites mostly out of curiosity, have become victims of littered shells in Kashmir.

With Tuesday's deaths, fifteen persons have died due to the littered explosives in Jammu and Kashmir this year. And most explosions have taken place near the gun-battle sites.

On July 24, two teenagers— 21-year-old Ashfaq Ahmad Khan and Babar Khan, 20,— were killed while fiddling with unexploded explosive object in a forest at Rafiabad area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

Earlier in the month of July, two teenagers were killed while another was injured due to an explosion from unattended explosive brought by the teens from the rubble of a house damaged in an gun-battle between militants and joint team of army, police in Tral town of Pulwama district in South Kashmir.

In April, two persons were killed in Akhnoor area of Jammu when a shell exploded in a scrap shop. A month later, another youth was killed in the same area in a similar incident. A labourer Abdul Hamid was killed in South Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) district when a live shell inside dead stock went off in the same month.

In February three children of Muhammad Maqbool of Maloora on the outskirts of city were killed when they were playing with a live shell, after a gunfight in the area. SHAHJAHAN AFZAL