Nepal: Bombs causing hundreds of child casualties (NEPAL)

KATHMANDU, 14 March (IRIN) - Nepal is ranked among the top 10 countries in the world affected by victim-activated bomb explosions, a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

"Casualties among children in Nepal are much worse than those in severely conflict-ridden countries like Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and Burundi," Hugues Laurenge, a mine and bomb risk expert working with the UN children's agency, said on Tuesday in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

The country currently reports the world's second highest proportion of children killed or injured due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Laurenge added.

According to the report, entitled 'Victim-activated Explosions Nepal - 2005', of the 142 new deaths or injuries reported that year, 56 percent involved children who had unintentionally activated the devices or were standing close to someone who had.

The IEDs - used mostly by the Maoists who have been waging an armed rebellion against the state for over 10 years - are generally planted on major roads or concealed in residential areas usually after a clash with the army or the police, where they are accidentally triggered by adults and children walking or playing in the area.

Included among the IEDs found in Nepal are socket bombs, booby traps, pressure cooker bombs, pipe bombs and bucket bombs, the report explained, adding most of the socket bombs were homemade and could be easily manufactured with just 70-80g of commercial explosives brought in illegally from India.

One of the worst incidents reported in 2005 saw over 40 civilians killed and 70 injured in June in Chitwan district, 185 km west of the capital, when a bus drove over a bucket bomb deliberately laid by the Maoists. In February 2006, a young woman, Asmita Chapagain, was killed by a booby trap installed inside a stone wall on the main highway in Nawalparasi district, 200 km south of Kathmandu.

"This is a new problem, which is very violent and unexpected and the size of the trauma is simply immeasurable," Laurenge, who is working closely with UNICEF to raise awareness about the dangers of landmines and bombs on civilians in the Himalayan kingdom, said.

But with the number of clashes between security forces and rebels increasing, there is growing concern among rights activists that the risk to civilians will increase.

"The conflict, through the presence of explosive devices, has generated new risks for Nepalese children in their immediate vicinities, sometimes in their own houses," Laurenge noted.

Von: 14.03.06

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