Tragiczny finał wojskowych pokazów we Francji
Siedemnaście osób, w tym pięcioro dzieci zostało rannych podczas pokazów wojskowych w Carcassonne na południu Francji. Jeden z żołnierzy zamiast ślepej użył ostrej amunicji. Prokuratura sprawdza, czy była to tragiczna pomyłka czy też ktoś specjalnie podmienił naboje.
Do tragedii tej doszło w ostatnią niedzielę, 29 czerwca, podczas „otwartych drzwi” zorganizowanych w koszarach 3. pułku spadochronowego francuskiej piechoty morskiej. Koszary mieszczą się w centrum miasta. Tego dnia gościły spory tłum ludzi, a żołnierzy odwiedziły rodziny, głównie żony z dzieciakami. Imprezę zorganizowano, żeby „podziękować ludziom za ich poparcie i podkreślić przyjaźń między bazą i jej żołnierzami a społeczeństwem”. Brygada, która brała w udział w pokazie, ma jeszcze tego lata wyjechać do Afganistanu.
Tematem ćwiczeń było odbijanie zakładników. Pierwszych pięć 20-minutowych pokazów przebiegło normalnie, do oddania fatalnych strzałów doszło podczas szóstego z nich. Jeden z żołnierzy zamiast oddać jeden strzał albo trzy, oddał całą serię aż do wyczerpania magazynku. On i publiczność zorientowali się, że coś jest nie tak, kiedy ludzie (w tłumie znajdował się żołnierz grający rolę terrorysty), do których ów żołnierz „markował” strzelanie, zaczęli padać na ziemię i pojawiła się krew. Okazało się, że w magazynku zamiast ślepaków znalazły się ostre naboje.
Rannych zostało 15 osób cywilnych, w tym trzyletni chłopiec trafiony w serce i sześcioletnia dziewczynka, (w jednym z artykułów podano dodatkowo informację o 11-letnim chłopcu ranionym w płuco) oraz dwóch wojskowych. Trzy osoby były w stanie bardzo ciężkim, według dzisiejszych doniesień ich życiu nie zagraża już niebezpieczeństwo.
Na pokazach było mnóstwo dzieci, wyobrażam sobie jak traumatyczne musiało być dla nich to przeżycie, kiedy nagle niedzielna frajda przerodziła się w pełen prawdziwej krwi, bólu, krzyków, paniki i rozpaczy koszmar.
Koszary zamknięto dla osób z zewnątrz, broń zabezpieczono, żołnierza aresztowano. Oficjalnie mówi się o „pomyłce”, „błędzie”, ale nie wyklucza się innych możliwości. Żołnierz był raczej wzorowy, bez żadnej przeszłości psychiatrycznej czy kryminalnej. Był doświadczony, więc trudno uwierzyć, że mógł pomylić ostrą amunicję ze ślepakami – oznaczone są różnymi kolorami i ostre naboje są wyraźnie cięższe.
Dla czytających po angielsku – artykuł z serwisu International Herald Tribune:
Stunned France wonders how military exercise went wrong
By Katrin Bennhold
Published: June 30, 2008
PARIS: It was supposed to be an open house to give the wives and children of the elite soldiers in the regiment a glimpse of their heroism in all those months of fighting far away from home.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, young boys ate ice cream and looked on with pride as they watched their fathers perform mock hostage liberations and antiterrorist operations, sweating in their camouflage outfits and firing blanks from smoking machine guns as if it were for real.
And then it became tragically real.
During the last of six military show exercises at the Laperrine military barracks in southern France, one soldier used live ammunition and wounded 17 people, most of them members of families of the military staff, said Colonel Philippe Tanguy, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
Four of the victims, including a 3-year-old child, were hurt critically, though by Monday afternoon their lives appeared to be no longer in danger.
„It is incomprehensible how this could have happened,” Tanguy said. „The question everyone is asking is: How could he have had real ammunition on him during an exercise?”
The shooter, a 28-year-old sergeant whose identity had not been disclosed, was arrested and was being questioned Monday. According to the state prosecutor in the regional capital of Montpellier, Brice Robin, the sergeant said he had loaded his assault rifle with a magazine of live cartridges by mistake.
„This act was absolutely not premeditated – I am very clear on this point,” Robin said at a news conference Monday, citing as evidence a video of the exercise that had been filmed by a fellow soldier. Robin said he would ask that the sergeant be charged with involuntary bodily harm. If any victims die, the charge could turn into involuntary manslaughter
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also commander in chief, canceled his plans for the day and rushed to the site early Monday to meet with the wounded and their families.
„There were unacceptable instances of negligence,” Sarkozy said upon his arrival in the southern city of Carcassonne before heading to one of the hospitals treating the victims. „They must be sanctioned. The reaction must be rapid and severe.”
The sergeant, a member of the 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment for eight years, has a spotless record in a unit considered to be one of the country’s best, army officials said.
He also has what the officials described as a „balanced private life” with no sign of psychological problems.
But on Sunday, mysteriously, one of the eight magazines in his military vest contained live cartridges rather than the blanks that were carried by the other 10 soldiers taking part in the exercise, Tanguy said. About 5.15 p.m., rather than firing single shots or salvos of three, he used a third option on his Famas assault rifle as is common for effect in such military show exercises: bullets spraying from the barrel until the ammunition is exhausted.
Witnesses told of surprise and then horror as fellow bystanders were hit amid the deafening shots.
„I realized that these were real bullets when I saw people falling to the ground around me,” an unidentified man was quoted as saying by the newspaper Le Figaro on Monday.
At least four people were wounded by the gunfire, officials said.
The other victims were struck by bits of gravel propelled by bullets that hit the ground or were hurt in the ensuing panic and stampede of fleeing visitors. Two of the 17 victims were military personnel.
Generally, defense experts said, live cartridges and blanks are difficult to mix up. The former are green and weigh about 80 grams, or nearly three ounces, more than the metallic-colored blanks.
„If you hold one in each hand, you will not only see but also feel the difference,” Tanguy said.
The problem, he said, was that once the cartridges are inside a magazine their color is visible only from the top end, and the magazines are put inside the ammunition pockets of a military vest head down to facilitate the loading of the gun.
Similarly, the weight difference is hard to discern when a soldier is fully equipped, particularly in action.
One possible explanation for the error Sunday, the army authorities said, was that the sergeant forgot to remove a magazine of live ammunition after a shooting exercise that he had taken part in a few days earlier. When he filled his vest with blanks before the exercise Sunday, he could have overlooked the magazine that was already in one pocket, they said.
A metal device that the sergeant had on his weapon for the exercise was designed to help explode blanks but slowed the real bullets and reduced their precision.
The 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment is among a small number of units specializing in being the first to intervene in times of crisis. It has taken part in many high-profile operations for France in recent decades, including actions in Lebanon in 1978, Chad in 1983 and Kosovo in 1999.
To, czego nie ma w mediach angielskojęzycznych, nie jestem nawet pewna czy jest w głównych mediach francuskich, to informacja zamieszczona w lokalnej gazecie La Depeche du Midi. Jeden z dziennikarzy tej gazety znalazł w pobliżu koszar dziesięć ostrych nabojów do tego właśnie rodzaju karabinu, jaki był użyty w czasie pokazów, w… podełku prezerwatyw. Niezależnie od tego, jaki związek miały (jeśli miały) te naboje z dramatycznym wydarzeniem, to coś tu cuchnie. Ostre naboje do specyficznego rodzaju broni, w pobliżu koszar, w centrum dużego miasta. Znalezisko zostało przekazane policji.
Na koniec jeszcze jeden artykuł po angielsku:
„THEN WE SAW BLOOD..”: HORROR OVER LIVE FIRE SHOOTINGReceived Monday, 30 June 2008 10:56:00 GMT
CARCASSONNE, France, June 30, 2008 (AFP) – By the time the frantic call of „cease fire” rang out, 17 people lay shot and wounded as a fun family day out to watch a military drill turned into a bloodbath.
„Suddenly, people were falling, we thought it was part of the exercise, and then we saw blood,” said one of the hundreds of visitors who watched as a French soldier fired live rounds instead of blanks at visitors attending a hostage-taking demonstration.
Five children were among those injured at the drill near Carcassonne in southwestern France.
Immediately after the shots were fired, said the eyewitness, a middle-aged man who asked not to be named, „an official shouted out over the loudspeakers „Cease fire!”.
„We were watching a hostage-taking exercise and it happened when there was only about five minutes to go. There were seven or eight soldiers with guns, with one of them in the middle of the public pretending to be a terrorist,” said the man, who attended the event with his family.
„We saw a child of about three years, really messed up, that really struck us. There were loads of children, because it was a party for children above all,” he said.
„Everybody ran for the exits. It (the evacuation) was very well organised, the soldiers handled it very well,” he said.
A senior army officer insisted that the incident was almost certainly the result of an „unintentional” error.
Fifteen civilians were injured along with two soldiers.
A young woman who was at the event at the army base and who also asked not be named, said she heard screams from the part of the barracks where the demonstration was taking part.
„There were people lying on the ground, among them a a little girl, maybe two or three years old. One of her family was running around looking for help,” she said.
Military and civilian investigators have opened probes into the events at the Third Marine Parachute Regiment barracks.
Defence Minister Herve Morin said that the shooter had first fired a magazine of blanks and then loaded a fresh magazine but this time with live bullets.
„Why did he have it in his pocket?” he asked.
He said an experienced soldier would not confuse blanks and real bullets, noting that the two munitions are packed into different-coloured magazines.
The soldier, a sergeant described as experienced with no history of behavioural or psychological problems, was detained following the incident.