Three children were killed when abandoned ammunition exploded near an Army firing range in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district, police said on Wednesday. The children were trying to remove scrap from the used mortar shells.

“Three children, aged 10 to 12 years, were killed Tuesday when they tried to break the used shells of mortars near the army firing range,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Jeet Singh told IANS on phone.

He said the children collected the shells from the firing range and tried to break it to recover scrap and lead. One of the shells exploded and killed them on the spot.

“We have recovered three more shells from the spot,” he said.

According to police, the firing range is used by the Indian Army and the Border Security Force.

The victims — Shail, Rahul and Chandan — belonged to Kohala village near Matour village, on the outskirts of the district headquarters of Kangra. Two of the victims were brothers.

Police had launched a search after parents lodged a complaint when their children did not return home from school on Tuesday evening. Their bodies were found in forests adjoining the firing range around 9 pm.

“A team of police’s bomb disposal squad has cordoned off the area and is conducting a search to find out more about the abandoned shells, if any,” an official said.

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