11 Killed at Pakistani Kite Festival

The Associated Press
Monday, February 26, 2007; 7:25 PM

LAHORE, Pakistan -- At least 11 people were killed and more than 100 people injured by sharpened kite strings, stray bullets and other accidents at an annual kite-flying festival in eastern Pakistan, officials said Monday.

The two-day Basant festival is regularly marred by casualties caused by sharpened kite strings or celebratory gunshots fired into the air. Kite flyers often use strings made of wire or coated with ground glass to try to damage a rival's kite, often after betting on the outcome.

Authorities had banned kite flying following a string of deaths at the festival last year, but temporarily lifted it before this year's event. Officials said the ban was re-imposed following the latest deaths.

Police arrested more than 700 people for using sharpened kite strings or firing guns, and seized nearly 300 illegal weapons during this year's festival, said Aftab Cheema, a senior Lahore police officer.

Five of those who died Sunday were hit by stray bullets, including a 6-year-old boy who was struck in the head, said Ruqia Bano, emergency services spokeswoman in Lahore.

A 16-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy died after their throats were slashed by metal kite strings in separate incidents. Two people were electrocuted as they tried to recover kites tangled in overhead power cables, and two people fell from roofs, Bano said.

© 2007 The Associated Press