A de-mining expert demonstrates how to find land mines in a training area near Hakim Village in central Afghanistan, where Soviet mines dating to the 1980s are still a danger. Sean Carberry/NPR
Windblown villages of mud houses surround the huge Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. These poor villagers make a living in ways that can also kill them: They graze their animals or forage for scrap metal — often on a NATO firing range.
The East River Range dates to the 1980s, when the Soviet army occupied Afghanistan. It’s full of mines, grenades and other ordnance that should have detonated during training exercises over the years. It sprawls along a mountainside and grazing areas. It’s poorly marked, and only small sections are clearly identified by signs and concrete barriers.
A couple of months ago, 16-year-old Abdul Rahman was picking up scraps of metal like a lot of kids do in the village. He picked up something he didn’t recognize; it turned out to be a grenade. It blew off both his arms, making him one of 15 reported casualties on the range over the last few years.