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24,000 unexploded bomblets

December 22, 2001

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ISLAMABAD, Dec 21: An estimated 24,000 unexploded bomblets are lying on Afghan soil, posing a deadly hazard to civilians and children in particular, international demining experts said on Friday.

Mine Action Centre spokesman Dan Kelly said some 10 per cent of the sub-munitions dropped in cluster bombs by the United States during its campaign in Afghanistan had failed to explode.

“Bomblets are not like a mine that will probably blow off a limb or blind you — these things will kill or burn people up,” he said.

On Monday, two children aged nine and 10 were killed and two others were injured when they picked up one of the shiny yellow bomblets as they collected wood near a refugee camp in Herat, he said.

“It is a tragedy for those Afghans who must give up their children while trying to provide for their survival,” Kelly said, quoting his Afghan colleague Saddique who helped recover the dead and injured children.

Kelly said the Mine Action Centre was also deeply concerned about unexploded ordnance scattered in broad swathes around an estimated 20 ammunition depots devastated by US-led bombing raids.

“Thousands and thousands of sub-munitions, rockets, mortars, missiles and mines, spread over a radius of up to five kilometres, cover roads, residential areas, irrigation canals and agricultural land,” he said.

“These munitions are all live and they explode and kill if moved.

“As well, we have some 750 million square metres of existing mined area to clean up,” he said..

Kelly said the Mine Action Centre, which now has 5,000 deminers at work in Afghanistan, was at the start of a seven-year programme to remove the worst of the country’s ordnance hazard.—AFP