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Iraq: A dangerous game with explosive remnants of war

01-05-2003 News Release

Believe it or not, it's true. In the streets of Basra, children can be seen playing football among explosive remnants of war - grenades, stockpiles of ammunition and even armoured fighting vehicles - abandoned by soldiers of the former regime.

On 27 April three children died playing with a mortar shell. " The stockpiles of ammunition exceed everything I have seen so far. It's an appalling situation " , said Johan Sohlberg, the ICRC's regional mine-action adviser. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Hassan is riding his bicycle among hundreds of mortar shells and other munitions, shouting with a large smile: " If you want, we can help you collect them now! "

In cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has already identified more than 30 sites where there are explosive remnants of war. These are in industrial areas but also in playgrounds, schools, civilian houses under construction, and among garbage piling up along the roads.

The ICRC conveys all information concerning explosive remnants of war to the explosive ordnance disposal unit of the British Army occupying the city, and asks it to take action urgently to remove the threat. The ICRC and the Iraqi Red Crescent also inform the civilian population about the danger by talking to people living near the sites and distributing leaflets, and through the media. The danger remains, however, and the deadly remnants of war continue to claim victims long after the fighting is over.

 Further information: Tamara Al-Rifai, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++4179 244 6414  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++4179 217 32 26  

 Nada Doumani, ICRC Baghdad, tel. ++873 761 845 610