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The ambulance which brought two of the girls to hospital Euronews/Youtube via Screengrab

Ten girls killed in landmine blast in Afghanistan

The girls, all aged between 9 and 11, were collecting firewood early this morning before they were due to go to school.

TEN YOUNG GIRLS were killed when a landmine exploded while they were collecting firewood in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province today, officials have confirmed.

The girls, aged between nine and 11, died when one of them accidentally struck the mine with an axe, Chaparhar district governor Mohammad Sediq Dawlatzai told AFP.

“An old mine left over from the time of the jihad (against Soviet troops in the 1980s) exploded, killing 10 girls and wounding two others,” he said.

Nangarhar provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said, however, that the mine was planted by “the enemies of Afghanistan”  - a reference to Taliban insurgents – even if it had been in that spot for some time.

The girls were collecting firewood early in the morning before heading for school in the Taliban-troubled district, Dawlatzai said.

Most of the bodies were so badly shattered that they could hardly be recognised, he said.

Since 1989, when the Soviets withdrew after a 10-year military occupation, nearly 700,000 mines and more than 15 million other explosive left-overs from decades of war have been destroyed, according to UN figures.

Chaparhar in Afghanistan (Image: Google Maps)

But despite international clearance efforts, more than three decades of war have left Afghanistan one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.

The explosives were placed during three recent conflicts: the 1980s war against the Russians, the 1990s civil war, and during fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban before they were ousted from power in 2001.

The Taliban now plant bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to target Afghan troops and their NATO backers but these regularly kill civilians.

The militants use as bombs artillery shells, explosives in containers such as pressure cookers and devices made from the common fertiliser, ammonium nitrate.

In the first six months of 2012, 1,145 Afghan civilians were killed and around 2,000 wounded, mostly by roadside bombs.

Women and children accounted for about 30 percent of this year’s casualties.

There are more than a dozen organisations and contractors and around 13,000 deminers working to eliminate forgotten mines in Afghanistan.

- © AFP, 2012

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