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U.N. report blames Taliban for landmine deaths, injuries in Afghanistan

By Clyde Hughes
U.N. report blames Taliban for landmine deaths, injuries in Afghanistan
Afghan workers prepare to search for landmines in Kandahar, Afghanistan. A new report said landmine deaths and injuries there are on the increase. Photo by Muhammad Sadiq/EPA-EFE

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Taliban is being blamed for the threefold increase in deaths and injuries caused by landmines in Afghanistan over the last several years, the United Nations said.

The Taliban, which was removed from power in Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, has waged war against the American-backed Afghan government for years.

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The U.N. Mine Action Service reported Wednesday the explosive remnants of war killed and injured more than 1,400 Afghan civilians in 2018. The agency said children accounted for 80 percent of the dead.

The statistics were announced at the Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers meeting in Geneva.

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"We are still in the prevention business and we aren't doing all that well," Patrick Fruchet, the Mine Action Service program manager for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

"In 2012, we were down to about 36 casualties per month in Afghanistan -- which is still enormous; those numbers jumped, those numbers jumped year on year. And in 2017, there were more than 150 casualties a month."

Fruchet said the Taliban, which started making landmines nine years ago, is the main source.

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"The United Nations established as of about 2010 that the Taliban movement was manufacturing improvised landmines inside Afghanistan and deploying them inside Afghanistan," Fruchet told Voice of America. "That has been denied by the Taliban movement, but we stand by the statement."

The Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, which follows the use of landmines globally, reported in November that deaths from the devices reached a record high in 2017 and accounted for nearly 1,100 deaths in Afghanistan and another 887 in Syria, nations involved in civil wars.

"Due to the inhumane impact of recently surging conflicts, landmines and other deadly explosive remnants of war are causing casualties in numbers that we had not seen for many years," Loren Persi, casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor, said.

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"Civilians are by far the majority of casualties, and victims continue to require support long after conflicts pass and the last mines are cleared," she added.

The Taliban is in peace negotiations with the United States and Afghan politicians, the first since the U.S. invasion 18 years ago. Both sides said last month they have built a framework for a possible agreement.

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