Libyan Children Wounded in War

MISRATA, Libya (CNS) — Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Majeed had grown so accustomed to the war raging around him that he lost his fear of the ordnance scattered on the ground in his neighborhood. One day in April, he found a rifle grenade just outside his front door and carried the projectile inside. The next day, as he played with it, it exploded in his hand.

“We heard a sudden roar from his room and went running to see what happened. We found him crying, and there was blood and parts of his hand on the ceiling,” said his father, Abdul Majeed.

Mohammed lost four of the fingers on his left hand and has had several operations since the accident.

Throughout this city, which was liberated by rebel fighters at a high cost and still remains under rocket fire from soldiers supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, children have paid a high cost in the conflict. Besides suffering directly during the combat that raged in the city center, they have suffered as they picked up debris that is, at times, unexploded ordnance.

Moreover, citizens have collected weapons and ordnance, setting up impromptu displays of war paraphernalia at several places around the city. Stacked in front of houses and piled in city parks, everything from boxes of bullet casings to fire-gutted tanks recall what Misrata’s fighters faced.

Yet the monuments also pose a serious danger to the people of Misrata. According to an explosive ordnance team from a network of Christian church agencies, the museums contain a variety of items — such as fused artillery shells — that could easily explode and cause considerable death and injury.

“I understand the sentiment behind the museums, but it’s like the worst-case scenario in a course on explosive ordnance disposal,” said Fred Pavey, a British member of the Christian ACT Alliance humanitarian mine action team.

Pavey said the museums, by making ordnance seem more interesting, can encourage children to pick up war debris they find in their homes or in the streets. That can lead to tragedy, as in Mohammed’s case.

Yet Mohammed’s father says people are learning from the mistakes of others.

“Because of what happened to my son, most of the children of our neighborhood are now afraid of these things, of strange things. We tell everyone not to touch strange things or any weapons. So now they’re careful,” he said.

“Kids are very bored in Libya, but they get bombs instead of toys from Gadhafi. He has destroyed everything.”

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