11 French peacekeepers injured in Lebanon munitions accident

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Eleven French soldiers serving with the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon were injured on Wednesday, one of them seriously, when a rocket accidentally exploded inside their camp, a spokesman said.

"The incident happened when soldiers handling an anti-tank rocket accidentally set off the firing mechanism," Lieutenant Sylvain Bedouet, spokesman for the French battalion, told AFP.

He said one soldier suffered serious wounds to his face and was immediately flown by helicopter to a hospital in the nearby coastal city of Sidon.

"His life is not in danger and he was conscious after the accident," Bedouet said.

He said four other soldiers suffered minor shrapnel wounds and seven damage to their hearing.

The 1,500-strong French battalion serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is based in the village of Tiri, some eight kilometres (five miles) from the Israeli border.

UNIFIL has some 13,000 troops from various countries stationed in southern Lebanon. France has the second largest contingent after Italy.

The force, which was set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Israel and southern Lebanon, was considerably beefed up in the wake of the devastating 2006 war between the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Israel.

© 2010 AFP

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