Afghanistan: Deminers continue working for the good of communities despite of several attacks

Kabul, 18 June, 2007

On Wednesday 13 June in Kandahar, 20-armed perpetrators attacked a team of 60 deminers. The deminers' compound was broken in when after their daily work in minefields, the deminers returned from the evening prayers. All staff was locked up in one room while the armed robbers searched the premises. In the early morning, after keeping the team looked all night, the perpetrators left the compound stealing the vehicles and all the demining tools.

Regrettably, this is not the first time that a demining team is attacked. In April a threevehicles convoy was attacked between Toot and Farah Rod leaving 7 deminers and 2 demining dogs dead. In March a deminer was injured in crossfire in Kapisa, and in February three deminers were abducted close to Gardez. To date, and since 2002, a total of 36 demining personnel were killed or injured in security accidents, more than 30 vehicles destroyed or stolen and many demining equipment robbed or damaged.

Despite these repeated attacks against deminers, the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) does not intent to stop its activities in any part of the country; the Programme never ceased its activities even during the wars period. The MAPA is a civilian programme working for the civilians.

"Supporting mine action means supporting Afghanistan, it means supporting the rehabilitation of the economic sector and the reconstruction of communities, it means supporting the refugees returning to their homeland" said Eng. Shohab Hakimi, the Director of the Mine Detection Dog Center (MDC), one of the five national NGOs working in the MAPA. "After this umpteenth attack we do not intent to stop activities, not even in the South, however I would like to remind everyone that a deminer without transportation or without its demining kit more than 700 square meters of land not cleared in a month: houses, farming land or pastureland that remains contaminated. Therefore, I would like to see our communities stand behind the deminers, protect them and support them."

"The MAPA extends its heartfelt thanks to the deminers for their unwavering courage, sacrifice and commitment to their country." said Mohammad Sediq, the Chief of Operations of the United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UNMACA), which oversees mine action on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, "Deminers are heroes who risk their lives each day to save innocent lives and free Afghanistan of landmines and unexploded ordnance to return the cleared land back to their countrymen. They should be praised for their hard work and not attacked."

The United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UNMACA) has been coordinating Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) activities such as minefield clearance, battlefield clearance, mine risk education and supporting mine victims throughout the country since 1989. The MAPA has cleared more than one billion square meters area, destroyed more than 345,900 anti personnel and antitank mines, and more than 7,100,000 pieces of UXO since 1989. Afghanistan became a State Party to the Ottawa Convention in March 2003 and committed to clearing all minefields in the country by 2013.

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Ahmad Jan Nawzadi
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