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AFP, March 24, 2008

Five Afghan deminers shot dead

After nearly three decades of war, Afghanistan is one of the world's most mined countries.

KABUL — Gunmen killed five Afghan mine clearers in an ambush on their convoy in northern Afghanistan, their UN-funded company said Monday, in one of the bloodiest attacks on non-government workers in months.

The attackers halted a convoy of workers for Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC) in the northern province of Jawzjan as they drove back to their base camp after mine clearing operations in a remote area, their director said.

They opened fire into the first vehicle and shot at the others, which included an ambulance, as they turned around and sped off, director Kefayatullah Eblagh told AFP.

"Three people stopped the vehicle and started shooting at them without saying anything," he said.

"Five people were killed and seven injured."

A landmine victim in Afghanistan
Landmine victim: Afghanistan has about 800,000 people with disabilities.

It was the worst attack on the company in its 18 years of operations in Afghanistan, he said. "It was terrible."

After nearly three decades of war, Afghanistan is one of the world's most mined countries.

Several companies are working with UN and other international funding to rid it of the devices, which kill or maim scores of people every year.

Police said the attackers had stopped one vehicle by shooting out a tyre and the others were able to escape.

"Then they made five deminers come down and shot them dead," said the deputy police chief of adjoining Balkh province, Abdul Rauf Taj.

Eblagh said the dead men, who included a driver and a section leader, were aged between 30 and 40 and came from various parts of Afghanistan.

It was not known who the attackers were, he said.

"I don't think they were targeting Afghan deminers," he said, adding that the attackers may have thought the convoy belonged to an non-government organisation -- some of which have been attacked in the north.

Insurgents from the extremist Taliban group, which was in government between 1996 and 2001, have killed dozens of people associated with the new administration -- including non-government workers, doctors and teachers.

A landmine victim in Afghanistan
Landmine victim: There are 100,000 children disabled in Afghanistan.

Most of their attacks take place in the south and east of the country.

There have however been several incidents in the north, where factional rivalry, warlordism and criminality also have a hand in the violence.

The Taliban says it is expanding its operations in that area and there was some insurgency-linked incidents in the area last year, including in Jawzjan which borders Uzbekistan.

In the past few days, the head of a district in Jawzjan and a highway police commander in northern Kunduz were murdered in incidents the Taliban claimed to have carried out.

But deminers have also been targeted in the spiralling violence in Afghanistan.

In August last year the bullet-riddled bodies of three mine clearers were found dumped in a village in the southern province of Kandahar, which sees a lot of Taliban activity, after they had been missing for several days.

A month earlier, 13 members of a demining team were kidnapped in the eastern province of Paktia by unknown men and released after a week. It is not known if the kidnappers were linked to the Taliban.

And in April last year, dozens of Taliban militants attacked a US-funded mine-clearing team in the south, killing three deminers, three guards and one female passer-by.

Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism - Views: 18117


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