The Indian Army said they did not fire any mortar at Deuri Dumri range in Bihar's Gaya district, a day after three people died in an explosion near the firing range. On Wednesday, the men likely took the shell that fell at the firing range on an earlier date and took it away to remove scrap metal for sale.
The army in a statement said it will support any investigation into the cause of the tragedy and gave condolences to the families of those who died in the explosion.
"The incident has been misreported by certain sections of the media that the deaths occurred due to army mortar firing. It is clarified that on March 8, no firing of mortars were carried out at the Deuri Dumri Field Firing Ranges," the army said in the statement.
It said the army takes clearances from the police and the civil administration before mortar-firing practice. "No such clearance was asked for mortar-firing on March 8," the army said, adding visuals on social media of a circular hole on the ground indicating it as the impact point of the mortar shell is not true.
"Mortar shell detonation on impact do not leave such signatures. Ostensibly, this could be a case of unauthorised collection of a mortar blind shell which fell in the designated impact area on an earlier date, and efforts to dismantle it to extract scrap metal for sale. This could have triggered the detonation, causing the unfortunate accident," the army said.
The army has cautioned people against the dangers of entering the impact area of field firing ranges and the deadly practice of illegal scrap collection from such locations.