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KABUL – Afghan security forces are already independently detecting and neutralising landmines planted by insurgents and those left over from the Soviet occupation, the Afghan Defence Ministry said.
Previously, locating and neutralising the mines were a difficult task for Afghan forces, as they lacked the skills and tools to do the job.
But with new training and equipment, Afghan security forces have developed the skill to independently neutralise the mines, Afghan officials say.
“The engineering department of the Afghan army is very active, and the military forces learn mine neutralisation techniques in this school,” said Gen. Zahir Azimi, a Defence Ministry spokesman.
The Afghan army also now possesses sophisticated tools and equipment, such as robots, which can be used to disarm mines, said Azimi.
According to the Mine Action Information Centre, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with an estimated 5m – 7m landmines. Afghan forces are to assume all security responsibilities in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Civilians are primary victims
Planting mines along roads and streets was a tactic first used by insurgents for targeting Afghan and coalition forces, Afghans say.
Currently, though, the insurgents are unable to plant landmines along the main roads because of increased security, said Gholam Rasool, a resident of southern Helmand Province.
Instead, the militants plant mines and improvised explosive devices on roads security forces rarely use, Gholam said. As a result, most of the mines strike civilian buses and passersby, he said.
In recent months, several civilians have been killed by insurgent landmines in Helmand, Kandahar and elsewhere, Afghan media reported.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased in recent years, and insurgents are responsible for 70% of Afghan civilian deaths, according to the UN.