Afghans blow up huge cache of landmines
KABUL: Afghan landmine clearers blew up a huge cache of anti-personnel mines on a plain north of Kabul yesterday to demonstrate their determination to rid their country of the weapons on the eve of International Mine Action Day.
After decades of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the world's most heavily mined countries. Between 70 and 100 Afghans are killed or injured by mines or unexploded ordnance every month.
"We destroyed 368 anti-personnel mines that we have collected in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence and Afghan New Beginnings Programme," said Fared Hamayoon, director of the Halo Trust mine clearance organisation in Afghanistan.
The New Beginnings Programme is a UN-backed drive to disarm factional fighters and confiscate their weapons.
The 368 mines were buried in a pit and went up in a huge explosion that sent a cloud of smoke high into the blue sky on a sunny spring day.
Afghanistan has an estimated 716mn square metres of land across the country that are suspected of being sewn with mines, according to the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan.
About 2,370 communities, containing up to 4.2mn people, are affected by mines.
"We hope we can rid Afghanistan of mines by 2012. That is the UN estimate for mines in Afghanistan," said Abdul Wali, who runs another anti-mine project.
Afghanistan signed the Ottawa treaty on banning landmines in 2003, committing itself to clearing all minefields by 2013 and destroying all stockpiles of the weapons by 2007.
"As long as there are mines in Afghanistan we are in danger. Children are at risk, people from abroad who aren't familiar with minefields feel in danger," said Nurullah Khan, a former soldier who lost a leg to a mine fighting the Taliban six years ago.
Najmuddin lost both of his legs in a mine blast when he was 18. Now he's a doctor helping other victims at an orthopaedic hospital run by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He said he had one message for the people making, trafficking and planting landmines: "Stop this very bad fight against humans."
As well as the countless mines buried in the soil, experts estimate there are 100,000 tonnes of munitions outside government control littering the country.
A weapons cache blew up in a village last year, killing 28 people and injuring 70.
Von: 03.04.2006, http://www.gulf-times.com Source: Reuters