Binaj Gurabacharya / Associated Press & Utpal Parahar / Hindustan Times – 2011-06-15 23:20:44
Women Soldiers Clear Nepal of Land Mines
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UN Declares Nepal Free of Land Mines
Binaj Gurabacharya / Associated Press
PHULCHOKI, Nepal (June 14, 2011) — The United Nations declared Nepal free of land mine fields on Tuesday after the last of the anti-personnel weapons planted by the army while fighting communist insurgents was destroyed.
Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal flipped a switch to trigger the last land mine, which had been laid to protect the main civil aviation radio tower in mountains south of the capital, Katmandu.
U.N. official Robert Piper declared that the minefield in Phulchoki was the last of 53 areas where the army had planted the weapons. “One more milestone on the road to peace, as we declare Nepal mine field-free,” Piper announced.
The tower at Phulchoki is used by flight controllers to communicate with planes flying across the Himalayan nation. It was guarded by an army camp, which was surrounded by a land mine field to protect against attacks by the Maoist rebels. “Today is a historical day because Nepal has been liberated from all kinds of land mines,” Khanal said.
However, there still are areas where homemade bombs were planted by both sides, and efforts to clear those continue, Piper said. Land mines explode by themselves when someone walks nearby, while homemade bombs are normally set off by a combatant.
Government soldiers used land mines imported from India, China and Russia, while the rebels did not have access to any. Soldiers mapped the areas where they planted the mines, making the job of demining easier.
The task of clearing the land mines began in 2007 after the rebels signed a peace agreement and abandoned their armed revolt, with the United Nations training Nepalese soldiers to do the task.
The army has cleared 170 of the 275 fields where it laid homemade bombs, but there is no record on the part of the rebels. U.N. arms monitors have destroyed some 53,000 homemade bombs that were turned in by the rebels after they signed the peace deal.
More than 13,000 people were killed in the insurgency that began in 1996 and lasted 10 years. Since the Maoists joined the peace process, they have joined mainstream politics and confined their fighters to camps.
Copyright Â© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Nepal Now a Landmine-free Nation
Utpal Parahar / Hindustan Times
KATHMANDU (June 14, 2011) — Nearly five years after the end of a 10-year civil war that killed around 13,000, Nepal on Tuesday destroyed the last remaining landmine in the country. With completion of the demining drill at Pulchowki in Lalitpur on the outskirts of the capital by the army, Nepal became the second country in Asia after China to get rid of landmines.
The last landmine was destroyed in the presence of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, senior Nepal Army brass and officials of United Nations Mine Action Team (UNMAT).
The landmine at Pulchowki was among the 257 landmines planted at 53 locations by Nepal Army to protect its installations after it was deployed against the Maoist Peoples’ Liberation Army during the civil war.
Clearing of the landmines is part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Maoists, the Nepal government and a seven-party alliance in 2006 that led to the end of the civil war.
Nearly 500 incidents of landmine casualties — 78 fatal — were reported during the civil war while, four others were killed and 19 injured in landmine-related accidents after signing of the peace accord.
Although the accord required both NA and Maoists to provide details of landmines within 30 days of signing the deal and finish demining work in 60 days-the process lasted nearly five years.
Tuesday’s development was hailed as an important milestone in the peace process by the prime minister, but Nepal is yet to complete the task of rehabilitating 19,000 PLA combatants stationed in cantonments.
(c) Copyright 2010 Hindustan Times
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