MUZAFFARABAD: A teenage boy was killed and three girls, including two sisters, under the age of 13 years were critically injured in Neelum valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Monday after a ‘dud shell’ they were reportedly tampering with exploded.
The incident occurred at about 5:30pm in the town of Kel, some 160 kilometres northeast of Muzaffarabad, when the victims were playing along the riverbank, unmindful of the hazardousness of the device they found there, SP Sajid Imran told Dawn from the area.
“As they were believed to be tinkering with the toy-shaped device it went off, leaving all four critically wounded,” he said.
Local residents rushed to the spot and shifted the victims to the Kel Tehsil Headquarters Hospital where doctors pronounced Junaid Rafi, 14, dead on arrival, he said.
The other three victims survived but with multiple injuries, he added, identifying them as 12- year-old Maria Husan Dad, her 10-year-old sibling Majida Husan Dad and 1-year-old Samina Ashraf.
SP Imran said their condition was out of danger.
Prior to the recent understanding between Indian and Pakistani troops to uphold the Nov 2003 ceasefire agreement, civilian populated localities of Neelum valley and several other towns and villages along the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) in AJK were a frequent target of India’s unprovoked and unrelenting artillery and mortar shelling.
In the last week of July 2019, Indian troops had also resorted to use of banned clustermunitions in Neelum valley in a serious violation of Geneva Convention and an international humanitarian law.
Dropped from planes or fired from the artillery, cluster bombs explode in mid-air, scattering hundreds of bomblets in the targeted area that usually remain activated from 24 to 48 hours.
However, in some cases, the deactivation takes quite a long time. The size of the bomblets varies from four to five inches and because of their shape – resembling a soft drink can or an orange -villagers refer to them as ‘toy bombs’.
According to the military sources, though cluster bombs are designed as anti-personnel and anti-armour weapons, their primary victims are mostly the innocent civilians, and of them 40 per cent are children who are drawn to the small, toy-like metal objects.
In August 2019, the AJK government had renewed a warning to the residents along the LoC to avoid tampering with any familiar and unfamiliar devices or gadgets found anywhere in the shelling affected areas in the interest of their safety.
The government had also announced a cash reward of Rs50,000 for the person informing the authorities about the presence of any improvised explosive device(s) in any area and Rs500,000 for the person identifying any saboteur or anti-state element.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2021