40 Tried for Abadan Explosion
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Forty days has passed since the tragic explosion July 7 in Abadan, about 18 miles outside of Ashgabat, and nothing more is known about the circumstances of the blast or the total number of casualties.
The independent emigre website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports that 40 people have been tried for the explosion, including the head of the army unit where the ammunition depot was located. No further information was available about the closed trial, where seven of those held responsible have been reportedly given sentences of 20-25 years, and the rest 10 years.
Although there is no tradition of a 40-day memorial in Islam, the Russian Orthodox Church marks the passage. Turkmen families have made a custom of such remembrance through prayer and special meals, gundogar.org reports.
There is still no confirmation of the number of those who have died or been injured, since the official toll of 15 killed (13 civilians and 2 soldiers) was announced -a figure independent reporters have challenged.
This month, 8 more people reportedly died from exploding shrapnel still scattered about the town, although it was not clear whether sappers or civilians were killed, says chrono-tm.org. The unexploded shells are in damaged homes or underground, making the area still dangerous.
Veteran Russian correspondent Arkady Dubnov writes in Moscow News that the precise figure of 1,382 published last month by chrono-tm.org reportedly comes from the official government commission convened to investigate the explosion. Yet the Turkmen leadership has classified the information and has had no further statements about the number of deaths, says Dubnov.
An official day of mourning was never declared, to the chagrin of those who have suffered. Some residents are hoping that when the town is reconstructed, as President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov promised, some kind of memorial service will be organized, perhaps in nearby Kipchak, site of Turkmenistan's largest mosque, and that a traditional sadaka or feast will be held. Yet the government has been more preoccupied with plans for celebrating the 20th anniversary of independence this fall.
The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has sent several protests to the Foreign Ministry of Russia over the coverage of Abadan in the Russian media, Dubnov reports.