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Hundreds of Afghans wounded by landmines in 2007

Jan 22, 2008

Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have killed and maimed hundreds of people in Afghanistan in 2007, says the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan. These explosive remnants of war left behind by various military factions during the 90s continue to endanger the lives of civilians.

Kabul: Landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) killed 143 and wounded 438 people in different parts of Afghanistan in 2007, according to UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) statistics.

Most victims are males aged 1-26, largely from the insurgency-affected southern provinces where the worsening security situation has hampered de-mining activities.

The number of people killed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war saw a 13.2% increase in 2007 over 2006 but the overall casualty rate (the combined number of dead and injured) dropped by over 29%, UNMACA's findings indicate.

Landmines, UXOs and AXOs killed 124 and wounded 697 Afghans in 2006.

Some 95% of landmine injuries lead to disabilities of one kind or another, demining experts say.

According to an IRIN report on mine action entitled Laying Landmines to Rest? Humanitarian Mine Action, conventional anti-personnel landmines cost between US$ 3 and $ 27 to produce, while technologically advanced mines, like scatterables and self-destructing mines, can cost up to 50 times more.

Most warring parties, including rebels, paramilitary groups and governments in low-intensity conflicts, prefer to use traditional "dumb" mines because they are cheaper, simpler to use, and easier to manufacture.

According to the UK Mine Information and Training Centre (MITC), clearing each mine costs the international community $300-$1,000.

Fewer landmine victims

The Soviet army that invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and various military factions that fought each other in the 1990s, planted millions of landmines (anti-personnel and anti-tank) all over the country, experts say.

As a result, over 70,000 Afghans were killed or disabled by landmines in the last two decades of the 20th century, according to mine clearing organisations.

Over the past 15 years mine clearance agencies have cleared large swaths of the country of landmines and AXOs. This has significantly reduced the number of casualties.

"In the past, about 100 people were falling prey to landmines every month," said Mohammad Haider Reza, programme director of UNMACA. "Now numbers have dropped to 50-60."

It is still unclear how many landmines remain to be cleared.

In December 2007, the Afghan government announced that landmine stocks had been destroyed in all military facilities and that there was no "formal landmine stock" in the country.

Explosive remnants of war

Even as numbers of landmine victims gradually decline, concerns about the risks of explosive remnants of war have increased, particularly in conflict-affected southern and southeastern regions.

According to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (2003), all warring groups must "mark and clear, remove or destroy explosive remnants of war in affected territories under its control," immediately after armed hostilities end.

However, all warring sides in Afghanistan, but chiefly Taliban insurgents, are blamed for their lack of compliance with the Protocol and civilian protection.

"Warring parties often leave behind explosive ordnance which endangers the safety of the civilian population," said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, UNMACA's chief of operations.

Source : IRIN
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