25 March 2008

The ICBL strongly condemns the cruel and deadly attacks on deminers in Afghanistan on Sunday and Monday. The ICBL calls on the government of Afghanistan to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to ensure deminers receive the protection they deserve.

“In Afghanistan, deminers have increasingly become a target for insurgent groups over the last year. This is simply outrageous,”said Sylvie Brigot, ICBL Executive Director. “The government must take immediate action to stop these attacks, punish those who carry them out and protect deminers who already risk their lives daily by destroying mines and other explosives left in the ground by decades of war,” said Brigot.

Some 8,000 Afghans are working as deminers in the world’s oldest and largest mine action program. Last year, at least six deminers were killed and a further 17 were kidnapped before being released.

Although Afghanistan has the oldest, largest and most richly resourced mine action program in the world, mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continue to pose a formidable challenge to social and economic reconstruction. In the most recent attacks, two gunmen attacked 12 deminers working for Afghan Technical Consultants on Sunday in JawzjanProvince, killing five staff and injuring seven. On Monday, in KunduzProvince, two employees of the Mine Detection and Dog Centre – an ICBL member organization – were shot dead as they were coming back from a ceremony held to return cleared land to the local community. “Instead of celebrating a community’s ability to safely use demined land, we are mourning the loss of those that work tirelessly and in difficult conditions to improve the safety of others,” added Brigot.

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily landmine contaminated countries in the world. Antipersonnel landmines affect towns and commercial areas as well as villages, farmland, grazing land and roads; the heaviest contamination and greatest impact is in eastern Afghanistan around Kabul, as well as in the northeast and southeast. Mine clearance plays a critical role in a country struggling to rebuild for long-lasting peace and economic development.Clearing the land of landmines and unexploded ordnance allows refugees and displaced persons to return home and all Afghanis to safely use the land, roads, and buildings. Mine action organizations and their deminers should therefore be valued and protected.

The ICBL expresses its condolences and compassion to the families of the deminers who were killed and hope their colleagues who have been wounded in the attack recover soon. It also expresses solidarity with our colleagues of the Mine Detection Dog Center, and with the entire mine action community in Afghanistan.

More information: Sylvie Brigot at + 33 6 07 17 27 76 or brigot@icbl.org Or visit www.icbl.org/lm/2007/afghanistan