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Soldier's souvenir rocket blows up comrades

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Soldier's souvenir rocket blows up comrades
An anti-tank rocket kept as a souvenir exploded, leaving three French soldiers seriously injured. (Not the soldiers pictured above) File photo: Kim Jae Hwan/AFP
08:54 CET+01:00
A French soldier broke down in tears in court on Tuesday when he apologized to colleagues after his souvenir rocket blew up in their office. One comrade lost his legs, another lost a testicle and part of his foot and the third his hearing.

A French soldier who kept an anti-tank rocket as a souvenir in his office was convicted Tuesday for wounding himself and three colleagues seriously when the weapon - still armed - fell and exploded.

A court in France's northwestern city of Caen handed the 43-year-old non-commissioned officer, who was not publicly identified, a three-year suspended sentence for negligent injury over the incident, which occurred in 2007.

The soldier had picked up the rocket and kept it in the office he shared with others for two years in his barracks near Caen.

On October 4, 2007 the rocket fell to the floor and went off, blowing out windows and the door and fracturing supporting walls.

The rocket's owner was peppered with shrapnel. His three comrades were more seriously injured: one of them had both legs amputated; one lost part of his foot and a testicle; the third lost part of his hearing and expected to become totally deaf.

The convicted soldier broke down in tears in court, expressing his "regrets to the colleagues wounded by my fault". His lawyer said his client had believed the rocket was disarmed.

On Monday the dangers of handling ordnance was highlighted again when a man was injured in eastern France when a Second World War shell, that he had found, blew up in his face.

The man, from Pont-de-Roide was trying to defuse the shell in his basement when it exploded in his hands. He was left with a fractured wrist and shrapnel wounds. He was taken to hospital but his life was not believed to be in danger.

Tourists have also come a cropper when trying to take home souvenirs from the battlefields of the two world wars in France.

Earlier this year The Local reported how Gare du Nord in Paris had to be evacuated when a passenger sparked a security alert when trying to take a shell onto the Eurostar.

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