6 Boys Killed by Afghan rocket fire

KABUL: (MEP) – Six boys were killed on a swimming outing in northern Afghanistan, apparently the victims of policemen who fired a rocket into a river, according to Afghan officials and relatives of the victims. The suspects were identified as policemen, and six of them were arrested, including their commander, 1st Lt. Ahmed Farid, officials said. The incident took place Saturday in the village of Drumbak, in Baghlan province, when policemen on one side of the Larkhab River fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the water. But the round went astray and exploded among a group of children bathing on the opposite shore, about 50 yards away, Irish times reported.

Six boys, ages 9 to 14, were killed instantly; two of them were in the shallow water near the riverbank, and the other four were on the bank. Two other children, a boy and a girl, were wounded. “The person who fired the rocket did not mean to shoot at the children,” said Samer Faisal, a member of parliament representing the area. “He was fishing, but unfortunately his shot did not hit the target.” Faisal named Farid as the shooter, noting that he is the son of a powerful local warlord, former jihadi commander Gen Mohammad Leqaa Andarabi, who is also a former police chief in Baghlan province. Gen Andarabi, reached by telephone, confirmed that his son was being held in connection with the episode, but maintained that the children had accidentally detonated a piece of unexploded ordinance, and that his son was not on duty at the time. “Those who suffered, whose children were killed, they’re now emotional and I understand that, I know how they feel,” he said. “If my son is really involved in this case he should face the consequences. I obey the law, and as a general in this country I accept whatever the government will do in this incident.”

Using explosives to stun or kill fish is not uncommon in Afghanistan, or many other places, for that matter. “Unfortunately it happens a lot, we cannot do anything to prevent it,” said Qasim Hamayoun, an official with the National Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re a policymaking organisation, we don’t have enforcement power. We strongly condemn fishing through rockets, bombs and using electric generators.”

In generator fishing, a bare wire is fed into the water and then a 220-volt generator is started, electrocuting any fish in the area but also posing an extreme hazard to anyone in the water. Hand grenades and rockets explode and stun or kill the fish.

Three of the children who were killed on Saturday were relatives of the Drumbak village mayor, Noor Alam: his son, Ruhullah (14); a nephew, Abdul Jabar (13), and a cousin, Abdul Wakil (14). “We don’t know why they fired the rocket – maybe they were just insane,” Mr Alam said. “Everyone has a different story, but we know that it wasn’t an unexploded mortar that the kids exploded. Our children have been killed like birds.”

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