Nepal clears last landmines

2011-06-14 22:33

Phulchoki - Nepal on Tuesday cleared the country's last remaining minefield, nearly five years after the end of the decade-long civil war with Maoist insurgents.

Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal pressed a button in a ceremony at the top of Phulchoki hill, blowing up the deadly explosive devices to fulfil one of the main terms of the peace accord signed in November 2006.

The Nepalese army laid minefields in 53 places across the country, most of them around key military facilities, hydro-electric power stations and telecoms towers.

"Removing these devices is an important part of the peace process," Khanal said after the controlled explosion, which echoed around the 2 700m peak near the capital, Kathmandu.

"This is an important step," he added.

According to the United Nations, 78 people have been killed and 395 others injured by mines since the peace accord. Most of the victims were children.

Khanal said that although the minefields had been removed, unexploded ordnance still posed a hazard, particularly in remote areas of the mountainous nation.

The army began laying mines to protect its barracks and government installations from Maoist attacks from 2002. Landmine clearance began in January 2007, with help from the UN.

Tuesday's clearance makes Nepal only the second Asian country after China to declare itself mine-free.

Prime Minister Khanal on Tuesday said that Nepal will soon sign the international Ottawa treaty that bans landmines.