Pakistan border mines worry UN

Officials say mining the border with Afghanistan will add to civilian casualties.

    Karzai has accused Pakistan's military intelligence,
    the ISI in particular, of helping the Afghan Taliban
    "Human rights advocates are solidly opposed globally to the use of land mines. The UN is opposed to the use of mines."
    Afghanistan is one of the world's countries worst affected by land mines. They have killed and maimed thousands of its civilians during the past 25 years of wars.
    The frontier region is inhabited on both sides by Pashtun tribespeople who travel freely across the border.
    Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, James Bays, talked to demining expert Fazel Karim Fazel and Daniel Bellamy of the UN demining operation in Afghanistan, both of whom strongly decried Islamabad's announcement, and said that laying more mines was not the solution to the problem at hand.
    Surge in attacks
    Taliban-led fighters have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan over the past year, triggering the worst violence since the government was ousted with US help five years ago and threatening the rule of Hamid Karzai, the US-backed elected president.
    About 4,000 people, including 1,000 civilians, have died this year in the fighting, making 2006 Afghanistan's bloodiest year since the fall of the Taliban government five years ago.

    Pakistan says it has 700 military posts
    along the border with Afghanistan [AFP]

    For the first time, Karzai this month publicly accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban fighters, saying elements in Islamabad wanted to turn Afghans into "slaves".
    Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, said that to fight the rebellion, there needs to be better co-ordination between both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    "It's difficult to see what value laying fresh mines could bring to the people of either country," he said.
    Relations have been souring between the neighbours, which are key US allies in its "war on terror" groups. Afghan and Western officials say fighters operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but the Islamabad government insists it does all it can to stop them.
    A spokesman for the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan said the Pakistani plan should be discussed by Afghan, Pakistani and Nato commanders.
    Mark Laity, a senior civil representative spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), said: "We obviously applaud any statement about further efforts to improve border security, but the methodology should be discussed in the tripartite council."
    Death confirmed
    In other news, a Taliban commander who declined to identify himself confirmed on Wednesday that Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, their military chief in southern Afghanistan, had been killed in a US air strike on December 19 in Helmand province.
    "He has died. We got this information on the day of the strike, but our leadership ordered us not to disclose it," the commander, speaking by telephone, told Reuters in the Pakistani border town of Chaman.
    "He was not only an experienced military commander but also good in making financial transactions for us. He had good contacts.
    "His death will have some bad impact on our movement for some time."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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