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Villagers stage protest against ricochets from U.S. Rodriguez firing range

A united group of villagers set fire to bundles of straw near the U.S. military firing range in Pocheon on Wednesday in protest against stray bullets from the range.

The Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, about 24 kilometers south of the tensely-guarded demilitarized zone, has been a source of grievances to the residents of neighboring towns following a series of ricochets that have come out of the firing range and landed on residential areas.

Most recently in October, a 105-millimeter anti-tank shell flew from the shooting range before ricocheting off a house in a neighborhood and landed on a farm.

Earlier that month, a practice projectile was found in a pine field following three similar cases of ricochets in proceeding months.

"Day and night, the sounds of firing never cease in Pocheon, the home to dozens of military bases, camps, a military airfield, ammunition dumps and the Eighth U.S. Army's Youngpyoung (Rodriguez) firing range as well as the South Korean Army's ranges," the villagers' committee on the ricochet issue said in protest.

The residents near the range started to desert their hometown in fear of stray bullets, they claimed in the protest rally near the U.S. military range.

Protesters set fire on straw bundles they brought to the protest area where smoke grew steadily and filled the dusky sky.

The villagers' committee was launched last week, demanding the local government take countermeasures on the issue. 

Some of the protests carried a funeral bier with banners that read "Death awaits outside the door" and "We want to live," in demand of resolution.

Encompassing some 13.5 million square meters in the town of Youngjung in Pocheon, it is the U.S. military's biggest shooting practice complex in Asia.

Severe tremor and unceasing noise have often been sources of severe protests from villagers.

Speaking on the issue in a recent news conference, Theodore Martin, the commanding general of the Second Infantry Division which uses the range, said the division is working closely with the city of Pocheon. (Yonhap)

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