Colombo (Sri Lanka) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels are now training women to help remove

landmines following the 20-year ethnic conflict.

Landmines are still found all over the country, even though the rebels have
stopped fighting with the government for over a year now.

All along the Colombo-Jaffna highway, there are hundreds of signboards
explaining the dos and don'ts in the event of spotting a landmine.

There are landmines, pressure mines and unexploded ordnance strewn all over
the region.

The government troops and the LTTE had laid minefields to prevent each
others advance during the 20-years of war that left some 70,000 people dead
and many more maimed.

The minefields, however, continue to take lives.

According to monitoring agencies, in the past one year landmines have killed
over a dozen people.

Many more have been injured and maimed.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, a non-governmental outfit working for
the resettlement of displaced Tamils in the Wanni region, has set up 15
teams of de-miners under the Humanitarian Demining Unit.

But these are not sufficient to clear the vast area, which are out of

To overcome the shortage of manpower, the LTTE's demining unit has recruited
women to join its ranks.

These women are undergoing rigorous training in simulated minefields.

Unlike the male deminers, who were trained by foreign experts, local experts
are training these women.

Samthan, a Demining Trainer, said: "The training will be for a month, after
which these women will join the demining team. But then, they will continue
to receive on the job training. The experience they will get while working
in real minefields will help them learn more."

According to rough estimates, there are over a million and a half landmines
laid in the region controlled by the LTTE.

At the current pace of demining, it would take more than a year for the
Humanitarian Demining Unit to clear all of them.

As they do not have any information about the location of landmines laid by
the government troops, their task is proving difficult.

The de-miners of the HDU are racing against time and area to execute their
task as soon as possible.

They are scratching every inch of land looking for landmines, rocket
propelled grenades and unexploded bombs dropped by the Sri Lankan airforce.

The women de-miners will certainly augment the pace of demining.

But removing mines is a risky affair.

Yesudasan, Coordinator of the Humanitarian Demining Unit, said: "We can find
enough deminers, but we still need to match the ratio of male and female

The first batch of some 60 women de-miners will be ready to start work in a
couple of weeks.