Early in the war last year that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, NATO aircraft attacked a government ammunition depot on the high desert plateau of the country’s west.
Libyans residing many miles away would later report feeling a series of earth-shaking blasts — the results of bomb after bomb striking concrete bunkers and detonating ordnance stored inside. The depot, in Ga’a, then fell to anti-Qaddafi fighters, who overran the place and looted it of anything they might use or sell. Tons beyond counting of dangerous items remained behind, stacked in broken bunkers or scattered on the desert floor after being heaved out.
Among the deadly refuse were weapons that we could not identify, one sample of which is shown at the top of the post, plainly labeled “DANGER EXPLOSIVE DO NOT TOUCH.” If that warning were not enough, the bright yellow stripe — a common paint scheme on munitions that typically signals that an item contains high explosives — further indicated that this was a hazardous device that should not be handled or disturbed. When we spotted it, we made a quick set of photographs, moved on and later began showing the images around. We wondered: Is this a grenade fired from a vehicle mount, or perhaps something else? No explanation seemed to fit.