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U.N. voices concern over Pakistan plan to mine part of border with Afghanistan

U.N. voices concern over Pakistan plan to mine part of border with Afghanistan

United Nations' officials on Wednesday criticized Pakistan's plan to mine parts of its border with Afghanistan, saying it would add to civilian casualties in a region already littered with ordnance.
Pakistan on Tuesday said it would plant land mines and build a fence on parts of its 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) frontier with Afghanistan to fend off criticism it does too little to stop Taliban and al-Qaida guerrillas from crossing the border.
"From a human rights perspective, we would be concerned about any mining, including this," said Richard Bennett, the U.N.'s chief human rights officer in Afghanistan. "Human rights advocates are solidly opposed globally to the use of land mines. The U.N. is opposed to the use of mines."
Afghanistan is one of the world's countries worst affected by land mines that have killed and maimed thousands of its civilians during the past quarter-century of wars. The frontier region is inhabited on both sides by Pashtun tribespeople who travel freely across the border.
Taliban-led insurgents have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan over the past year, triggering the worst violence since the hardline regime was ousted with U.S. help five years ago and threatening the shaky rule of Hamid Karzai, the nation's first popularly elected president.
Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, said that to fight the insurgency, there needs to be better coordination 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 neighbors, which are key U.S. allies in its war on terror groups. Afghan and Western officials contend militants operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but the Islamabad government insists it does all it can to stop them.
A spokesman for the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan said the Pakistani plan should be discussed by Afghan, Pakistani and NATO commanders.
"We obviously applaud any statement about further efforts to improve border security, but the methodology should be discussed in the tripartite council," said Mark Laity, senior civil representative spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force.
Afghanistan quickly objected to the idea of a fence along the rugged border, whose demarcation is disputed by the two nations. But Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan said his country would be acting on its own territory and did not need Afghan consent.
Pakistan did not say when work would start.
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Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-07 18:59 GMT+08:00