NATO Troops To Destroy 15,000 Landmines in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, DC, March 22, 2006 (ENS) - The largest cache of hazardous explosives ever found in Afghanistan - 80 tons of TNT, as well as 15,000 anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines, detonators, and other explosives - have been discovered in old storage bunkers, according to a U.S. State Department report.


The five bunkers full of explosives are located near the town of Sheberghan, in Afghanistan's Jowzjan province, says the report, released Monday.

The entire store of land mines, the largest ever found in the country, along with the other explosives are now in the possession of NATO troops that make up the International Security Assistance Force. NATO will destroy the cache to keep them from harming people and the environment.

The discovery and securement of the explosives is due to the persistence of a UXB International contractor employed by DynCorp International, which is working for the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs to support Afghan explosive ordnance disposal teams.

The bunkers came under scrutiny when a United Nations official told the private U.S. contractor about them.
The contractor later met with the Governor of Jowzjan Province, Roz Mohammad Nur, presented him with a bouquet of flowers, and discussed the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement's efforts to safeguard abandoned or otherwise poorly secured arms and munitions.

The governor then permitted the contractor to enter the bunker complex where everyone's fears were confirmed.
Stacked rows of crates containing minitions found in the Afghan town of Sheberghan.

In one bunker, long rows of abandoned crates of munitions, and anti-vehicle mines loosely stacked on top of some of the crates, sat in the dark, vulnerable to theft.
A huge heap of uncrated anti-vehicle mines was found abandoned in another of the bunkers.

These mines were dangerous for two reasons. First, they were vulnerable to theft by criminals and terrorists. Second, improper storage of such munitions can result in spontaneous, catastrophic explosions that harm nearby residents and scatter unexploded ordnance and toxic debris in the adjoining area.

That scenario poses a persistent physical threat and may also create an environmental hazard, the State Department said.
The UN Development Programme will arrange for the DynCorp/UXB team to destroy some of the landmines as part of Afghanistan's celebration of International Day for Mine Awareness and Mine Action on April 4.

The rest of the munitions will be disposed of later.
The United States has helped to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan since 1988.

Loose mines found in Sheberghan

Since 1993, when the inter-agency U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program was established, the United States has invested over $152 million to help Afghanistan develop a national humanitarian demining capacity for which it is now well known.

The funds have been spent to teach mine risk education, provide assistance to survivors of landmine and unexploded ordnance accidents, and secure and destroy excess and abandoned arms
and munitions that are found in the country.

Mines pose the severest kind of environmental danger. Mines and unexploded ordnance are located in almost every conceivable type of terrain in Afghanistan. Major military and civilian positions were mined, including the cities of Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Khost. The capital Kabul is the most heavily mined capital city in the world, according to the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines.

Mines pose a great danger to refugees returning home by passing through provinces bordering Pakistan and Iran. According to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, mines were most usually deployed along unused footpaths, tracks and roads; on the verges of tracks and roadways; in vehicle turn-around points; near culverts and bridge abutments; along damaged building walls; in the doorways and rooms of deserted houses; in and around wells and access points; around military posts; on or near destroyed vehicles; and in areas where people might hide.

Von: 22.03.06

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