Mine removal a dangerous, endless task in Afghanistan
Sun Apr 6, 2008
VANCOUVER (CBC) – People in Afghanistan continue efforts to clear thousands of unexploded mines in their country, despite the added danger they face from the Taliban.
Up to sixty per cent of the land is too dangerous to walk on, littered with landmines and unexploded shells, the legacy of 30 years of conflict – the Soviet invasion, civil war and now the fight against the Taliban.
For the past 18 years, Ahmed Ullah has had one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, gently pulling explosives out of the ground in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
“This work is like a jihad for me, a holy war against landmines. I am a Muslim defending my brothers from bad things,” he told CBC News.
Removing them is slow work. On the weekend, 10 men who were removing mines in Kandahar province were able to clear an area slightly larger than a football field.
This is a dangerous job, not just because of the nature of the work. Those accepting the task have become targets for insurgents. Late last month, five deminers were shot dead in the north of Afghanistan.
The United Nations declared April 4 its third annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance on Mine Action.
In Kandahar, the UN Mine Action Centre had to scale back its efforts after two of its workers were murdered last year, allegedly by the Taliban.
“At that time, we almost had 30 demining teams working here in the southern region, but up to now we have only 10 teams,” the centre’s Mohammed Daud said.
Canadian funding, $80-million worth of removal work over the next four years, helps to pay the salary of some 9,000 Aghan deminers. They average $250 a month, which Ullah said helps feed his family.
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