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DoD Helps Clear Leftover Mines

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 1997 – Wars end, but the killing and maiming go on.

A few months ago in Egypt, a land mine killed a young girl and blinded her brother. The weapon was planted by Nazi forces in 1942.

Experts estimate up to 180 million active land mines are buried in nearly 70 countries. Each year, as many as 26,000 people encounter these lethal wartime legacies. DoD is helping remove this menace from the world's farms and fields.

Since 1993, DoD has spent more than $153 million on demining efforts. Currently, DoD representatives are helping 12 nations to train local technicians and to set up mine clearing operations. In Cambodia, for example, one of the more heavily mined countries in the world, the United States is one of more than 20 nations helping with demining operations.

"No one understands the horrors of what land mines do better than soldiers," a senior DoD official said. "We understand it from the standpoint of war, and it's our people in the field in these countries who see the children, who see the victims. We understand the damage that is done."

DoD plans to train 1,200 local demining technicians this year. "The demining problem is so big, so vast, that these countries are never going to solve it depending on outsiders," the official said. "We equip them, and then we train their deminers, but more importantly, we train the infrastructure they need to build a national capability. They need supervisors. They need medical support. They need communications."

Developing better mine detection and clearing technology and sharing it with the international community is another DoD goal. This summer in Namibia, for example, U.S. officials plan to test a new piece of equipment -- a berm sifter. If it works, officials said, the South African nation could be mine-free in a year.

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