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Partial suspention of de-mining in Afghanistan

UN partially suspends de-mining operations in Afghanistan following attacks

The United Nations has suspended mine clearance on parts of one of Afghanistan’s most important routes for commerce and relief aid following new attacks on de-mining teams on the road between the Afghan capital of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar.

The top UN official in Afghanistan, who denounced the latest attack today, also imposed precautionary travel restrictions on UN personnel, including a curfew on nighttime road travel anywhere in the country.

In the first attack, on 3 May, gunmen killed the driver and wounded a passenger in a car belonging to a local de-mining agency. In the second, on Monday, gunmen ambushed a UN-funded convoy of two trucks and an ambulance from a non-governmental landmine-clearance organization. When no internationals were found, they opened fire on the ambulance, wounding two of its three occupants.

“This is one of the most severe examples of violence against the programme in the last 13 years of operations,” Dan Kelly, manager of the UN Mine Action Service programme in Afghanistan, said. “And we feel we have no choice but to protect de-miners from future violent attacks by ceasing operations in areas that are not adequately patrolled and secured.”

The Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, “is appalled at the brutal assault,” spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in Kabul.

Calling the attackers enemies of Afghan farmers waiting for their fields to be cleared, of Afghan children wanting to play without risking their lives, “indeed…of the entire Afghan nation,” Mr. Brahimi instructed the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to take the following security measures: No road missions of UN expatriate and national staff south of Ghazni towards Kandahar; no UN road movement anywhere before 6 a.m. and after 6 p.m.; and no UN missions to Zabul, Uruzgan and upper Helmand.

In othe news, the spokesman also warned of increased threats and intimidation, including physical attacks, on the media. He said UNAMA, in close coordination with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, would continue to investigate these cases and bring them to the attention of the authorities. Such action “contradicts the aspirations of the great majority of Afghans who strive to rebuild a country in which different views and opinions could be freely and publicly expressed, without any fear of reprisal or revenge,” Mr. de Almeida e Silva added.


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