The Herald (Harare)

30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Horror Blast - Initial Police Findings Out

Photo: allAfrica.com
Harare

PRELIMINARY investigations into the blast that killed six people in Chitungwiza last week and destroyed 12 houses point to the use of explosives. Though police yesterday said they were yet to identify the type of explosives, speculation is rife that it could have been an anti-tank landmine.

Police chief spokeoperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said investigations were still continuing.

"Preliminary investigations are indicating that the cause was due to explosives. Therefore we all need to be very cautious," she said.

"We are still conducting investigations. Forensic, bomb disposal and forensic ballistics are still carrying out analyses."

Asst Comm Charamba said five people died in the explosion, with reports on Monday saying another victim succumbed to injuries sustained in the blast. She said all victims had been identified and dismissed as false reports that a soldier or an ex-soldier was killed in the the explosion.

Asst Comm Charamba confirmed that an ex-policeman died in the incident.

Speculation was rife that the traditional healer and his clients sought to extract mercury from a bomb when tragedy struck.

Asst Comm Charamba warned people to desist from such attempts.

"Those devices are designed to explode and cause damage, injury or death.

"We have three recent cases, one in Chitungwiza and others in Waterfalls and Manicaland provinces."

Four family members from Waterfalls tried to open what was suspected to be a grenade and it exploded, seriously injuring one of them.

The man lost four fingers.

Asst Comm Charamba said three suspects were arrested in connection with the case.

Two more people were arrested early this month in Manicaland Province after they were found selling mortars.

They told prospective buyers that the bombs contained mercury which could fetch instant cash on the black market.

"Possession of explosives is illegal and they are highly dangerous and fatal.

"Please report to the nearest police station once you have information about people selling explosives."

An expert on explosives said yesterday that an anti-tank landmine was likely to have caused the explosion.

The landmine is designed to damage or destroy vehicles, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

Compared to an anti-personnel mine, an anti-tank mine typically has a much larger explosive charge and a fuse designed only to be triggered by vehicles or, in some cases, after it is tampered with.

The expert said the anti-tank mine contains a few milligrammes of red mercury, which coats the explosives as a preservative.

He said most people use red mercury to purify gold and other minerals.

However, experts say that there is no material called "red mercury" in any bomb and that there is no market whatsoever for that.

They said there is nowhere on earth where a material called "red mercury" could be found.

"What is happening in Zimbabwe (and Zambia and Angola, too) is that conmen are selling bombs to greedy gullible people for, say, US$300, telling them that the bomb has red mercury which can be sold for thousands of US dollars if they can manage to extract the red mercury from the bomb," said a United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean engineering consultant.

"It's a con. It's a scam. It's a hoax that has been used by conmen since the 1970s and conmen are now using the same trick to unsuspecting greedy African businessmen who want short cuts to wealth.

In Europe the hoax did not involve selling bombs. Conmen in Europe would just sell ordinary red powder to the gullible by telling them that its 'red mercury' that can be sold for millions because it's rare and is used for making bombs.

Fortunately the greedy Europeans would just lose their money, but the conmen in Africa are now robbing both money and lives," he said.

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InFocus

Zimbabwe's 'Horror Blast' Likely a Landmine

Harare

Investigation by police into the causes of the Chitungwiza blast, which killed six people, points to the use of explosives. Read more »