11 September 2007
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) welcomed today the release of 10 members of an Afghan demining team, and called for the immediate release of the three deminers still in captivity.
The 13 men were abducted on 6 September by unknown gunmen, believed to be Taliban insurgents, as they were driving in the eastern province of Paktia. “Deminers put their lives on the line every day to make the land safe again for others. They must be allowed to carry out their life-saving work without having to worry about security threats from outsiders,” said Sylvie Brigot, ICBL Executive Director. “We call on insurgent groups to acknowledge the humanitarian nature of mine action and to allow it to continue, for the sake of all Afghans,” Brigot continued. “We also urge the government of Afghanistan to ensure the security of demining operations,” she added.
This new kidnapping seems to highlight an emerging pattern of aggression and violence against deminers. In August, three deminers were found dead after being abducted in Kandahar province, and in June this year 18 more were kidnapped and subsequently released. Their equipment was never returned. “Attacking deminers and other relief workers is just unacceptable,” concluded Brigot, conveying the ICBL’s solidarity to the kidnapped operators, their families as well as the relatives of those killed last month.
Background As a result of more than two decades of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the most severely mine-affected countries in the world. As a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, which it joined in 2002, Afghanistan is under an obligation to ensure clearance of its territory “as soon as possible” and by 2013 at the latest. In 2005 (most recent statistics available) there were 848 new casualties recorded.
While casualty levels have remained constant in the past few years, child casualties have been increasing. It is not possible to know exactly how many survivors of landmines/unexploded ordnance accidents there are in the country, but government sources estimate that there might be as many as 100,000. For more information, see Landmine Monitor