ISLAMABAD, March 1 (Reuters) - As an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines entered into force on Monday, a U.N. group said mines were still a daunting challenge in war-torn Afghanistan, killing and maiming innocent civilians.
Afghan mine threat still daunting, UN group
Reuters, March 1, 1999
The U.N. Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) said that over the past 10 years it had cleared 166 square km (64 square miles) of minefields and 164 square km (63 square miles) of contaminated battlefield area, and destroyed close to 200,000 mines and more than 730,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
“Despite the demonstrated success of MAPA, the sheer scale of the mine problem in Afghanistan remains daunting,'' a programme statement distributed at a news briefing said.
More than 700 square km (270 square miles) of land in Afghanistan is still contaminated with mines or UXO, it said.
Nearly half of this area was considered “high priority,'' posing a direct threat to human safety and economic recovery.
MAPA said it anticipated its current resources would allow high priority areas to be cleared within the next seven to 10 years.
But an MAPA official, Richard Kidd, said Afghanistan would continue to live with the landmine problem for “many, many years'' as Europe did after the World War Two.
Nearly half a million Afghans have been maimed by mines planted by Soviet and Soviet-backed Afghan forces or by guerrilla forces that fought them in the 1980s. Other mines have been laid by various factions which have struggled for dominance after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
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