Reuters | June 22, 2011
Makeshift ‘museums’ displaying a large range of munitions and attracting hundreds of curious visitors every day are a disaster waiting to happen.
The one pictured left, on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata, is amongst the largest, intended as a reminder of what happened here at the site of intense fighting between the rebels and Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
But many of the munitions are still fused, with neither the organisers nor visitors having any idea of what is safe and what is not.
There is an additional concern, as MAG photographer Sean Sutton, in Libya recording the work of our teams and the humanitarian impact of these devastating remnants of conflict, explains:
“On top of this immediate threat comes the problem that children seeing these items are quite likely to find them in their playgrounds. How are they going to react when they see a yellow striped submunition just like the ones they saw in the ‘museum’? The likelihood is that they’ll pick it up.”
Fifteen-year-old Mohamed knows the dangers all too well. He lost most of his right hand and suffered injuries across his body after handling part of a rifle grenade that had landed near his house in April.
Mohamed had taken the item home for he and his brothers to play with. A couple of days later, he was holding it and it exploded. His mother rushed into his room to find her son covered in blood. Mohamed’s uncle rushed him to hospital.
Now, after four operations, he is recovering well. However, his father Abdul said Mohamed is too shy and too ashamed to go out much. When he does, he tries to hide what is left of his hand in his pocket.
“Abdul brought out part of the projectile to show us,” said Sean. “It was long thin and green with black plastic fins. Mohamed looked very nervous seeing the remains of the item that nearly took his life.
“He played a bit of football with his friends and then his favourite sport, table tennis. He became much more relaxed and we enjoyed coffee and biscuits.
“As we left, Abdul said: ‘They give bombs instead of toys for the children. What world is this? Everyone in this area knows about this accident and everyone now tells their children not to touch these things. We didn’t know before but we certainly do now.’”