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Sep 8, 2008

Grenade hurled at hundreds of carnival onlookers

Story PictureThe streets of Bagdad may be safer than Belize City tonight as a fourth grenade, aimed at a thick crowd of revelers, interrupts the carnival road march. And at news time tonight two people have been detained by police following what could have had a disastrous ending were it not for a twist of fate when the deadly device did not explode. News Five’s team has been putting together the story since Saturday.

Marion Ali, Reporting
While there are many versions to the events that unfolded, News Five spoke today to the mother of a five year old boy who bent down to pick up the device, thinking it was a gift being thrown from one of the passing floats in the Carnival Parade. The mother, who was reluctant to go on camera, said she was herself in the parade.

Voice of Child’s Mother
“According to what his father told me and other people told me that the child was picking up things that were being thrown out of a truck, like books and sweets and other stuff. A bag was thrown from the crowd and a guy that owned the trucked—the stuff was thrown under the truck and my child was about to pick it up and the guy that own the truck told him don’t pick it up because looked like he know that he saw the wrong object in a lack plastic bag. And he pick it up and he stoned it in a plant in the Karl Heusner grounds. What I get the understanding of and they said the person was just passing and it was like a dread guy. He was just passing and he threw it under the truck. He threw it under the truck. It didn’t come out of the bag, he just threw it under the truck and the guy that own the truck threw it in the plants.”

And that is where Major James Requena of the Belize Defence Force Squad sprung into action that night when he himself, who was a carnival spectator not far away, was called to rescue the situation.

Major James Requena, B.D.F. Bomb Squad
“I was out here with my family watching the carnival. I got a call from the operation room saying that a grenade was thrown in the parking lot of the K.H.M.H. just at the end of the carnival when the last show was passing. I immediately contacted the police officers around and we searched the area and we found the bag. I opened the bag. Below where the safety pin is, I saw that the safety pin was removed and so I asked them to clear off the area a hundred meters and I will be thankful to the public, they cooperated. They took a while but they cooperated.”

At a news conference this afternoon at the Raccoon Street Police Station and Led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Requena and Assistant Commissioner of Police Crispin Jeffries, spoke about the perilous situation that would have come about had the grenade detonated in that crowded area.

Major James Requena
“The lethal impact area or what we would call the kill zone is fifteen meters or approximately fifty feet. Anything within fifty feet radius would die instantaneously. It has a casualty radius of two hundred and thirty meters that you can still find sharp nails flying. The reason I specified this is the location where it was found was near vehicles that have glass, that have metal, the K.H.M.H. entrance is fully glass, we have alliance Bank on the opposite which is fully glass. Just the sheer impact of the explosive wave would have shattered the glass, people standing round would have felt the impact. So apart from the immediate injury around the fifty feet radius, we would have had injuries far out.”

But the device didn’t detonate because the lever did not fly off, probably because it was tied inside a tied plastic bag. But while there was not an explosion, Requena cautioned grenade holders of the lethal possibilities if they explode in your possession.

Major James Requena
“These types of grenades are sold openly in lots of markets even though they are military type. We know the cold war has ended, we know the guerrilla warfare in Central America has ended and a lot of countries still have these. The ordinary civilian have these in their possession and they will sell for a quick hundred or twenty U.S. It doesn’t matter to them, they just want to get rid of it. The people who are buying it in Belize do not understand the danger behind the items that they have and this these things corrode in their house, you don’t have to pull the pin; the pin just corrode because of the salty air because we live in Belize City or Ladyville and it corrodes. When you go to pick it up and it slips from you, that’s the end of you and your family and whoever are involved with it.”

Crispin Jeffries, Assistant Commissioner of Police
“We can confirm that some of these grenades are not used by local security forces. We’ve checked out the records to see in fact which security forces are using some of these weapons and in fact there are some records that we can look through on the internet and we’ve done some of that investigation and that kind of investigation continues.”

This last incident has sent shock waves throughout the City, and this afternoon the government attempted to appease the citizens.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“What the police are planning with respect to heightened security measures and with respect to effort to try and give Belizeans a real sense that they will be as safe as possible during the September celebrations. I am satisfied that what they planned is effective, feasible, doable. I am extremely regretful that Belizeans had to deal with that kind of a shock. I also feel that the police did as well as could have been expected on that day. I am satisfied that over a hundred and fifty officers were tasked by the Police Department to participate in the security exercise on Saturday.”

And to bolster that safety feature, Commissioner of Police, Gerald Westby, says the B.D.F. will also be engaged in the process.

Gerald Westby, Commissioner of Police
“I have already spoke to the Commander B.D.F. when he came in and the Chief of Staff and we’ll be securing additional B.D.F. to place at key and strategic locations along the parade. We’ll also be getting the B.D.F. Explosive Ordinance team. Instead of calling them when we need them, we’ll be having them here like what we do for presidential visit. They will secure and clear the venues and they will sterilise, make sure that adequate police are there.”

And while police and their bosses chart out their new plan of trying to make our city streets safer for Belizeans, the mother of the little boy has a sobering message to the murderous mind who threw the grenade.

Voice of Child’s Mother
“Lots of truck is passing by, kids are picking up things on the streets. Suppose if thing have coming out? Not only my child would have been affected, you have other kids, you have spectators, you have Karl Heusner itself. Just imagine this explosion would have happened and affected this whole nation, just imagine that.”

Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

Prime Minister Barrow says that there will have to be new legislation to deal with the grenade phenomenon. And while it is hard to determine how safer Monday would be than Sunday, the PM says he will ask the September Celebrations Committee to consider having the twenty-first day celebrations on the Monday instead of Independence Day which falls on Sunday.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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