“Papa, it hurts!” the 13-year-old moans. His father tells him to stop crying and act like a man - but the boy screams as a nurse slowly moves his arm from his scorched side.
Bektash Misja is a victim of Albania’s turmoil, one of hundreds of children injured by the arsenal of guns, grenades and ammunition in hands that don’t know how to use them.
Some of the children got in the way of bullets; gunmen let off steam when night and curfew fall, shooting randomly into the air.
Others hurt themselves playing with cartridges, grenades and even submachine guns looted over the past month from government armories as anger over failed investment schemes turned into armed insurrection.
In the rebel-controlled south and in northern towns run by gangs, boys hardly old enough to walk have pockets stuffed with ammunition, and 13-year-olds squeeze off bursts of submachine-gun fire into the air to impress visitors.
Some of the more violent towns, like Puka north of Tirana, report up to 15 children injured every day.
Bektash, the slim 13-year-old, picked up a canister lying on the road in his village of Maminas 15 days ago.
Other children tried to take it away from him, so he pinned it between his arm and his right side and started running. Then the grenade exploded.
“I only remember falling down and losing consciousness,” he said from his bed at Civilian Hospital in Tirana.
xxxx ITALY WILL STILL HELP Italy insisted Tuesday it would not back out of leading a 5,000-member European force to protect humanitarian aid in Albania. Albanian rebels have threatened retaliation against any Italian troops on their soil after survivors of Friday’s collision between an Italian warship and a refugee boat said the Navy vessel rammed their boat.
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