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Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign Denounces Taliban Use of Landmines in Pakistan's Swat Valley
GENEVA - May 20 - The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) denounces recent use of antipersonnel landmines by the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) in Pakistan's Swat Valley. According to reports from the area including most recently from Human Rights Watch, an ICBL member, residents of Mingora, the epicenter of the fighting, have seen Taliban militants laying antipersonnel mines in the town.
Landmines could rapidly claim casualties among the civilians fleeing the conflict zone.
"The humanitarian situation in northwest Pakistan is already extremely tense and the civilians are struggling to protect themselves and their families. We are appalled that recently laid landmines come as an additional threat in the region. Not only does landmine use pose an immediate and direct menace to civilians, but it will also have long-term consequences on these populations," said Raza Shah Khan, Director of the Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO), ICBL member in Pakistan. SPADO will soon start a mine risk education program in the internally displaced people's camps so that civilians are aware of the threat when they go back to their homes. SPADO is making materials available and asking the local media to help in informing the population of the mine danger.
According to Human Rights Watch, Swat residents still in the valley and people fleeing into the towns of Swabi and Mardan have said that Pakistani Taliban laid landmines in eight places in Sohrab Khan Chowk, a square in the center of Mingora, and four places in Sharifabad, a village near the Haji Baba area about three kilometers from Mingora. Some Taliban reportedly warned residents that they would be blown up if they walked on the mines. The Pakistani army media cell in Mingora told the ICBL that the army has encountered victim-activated improvised explosive devices and factory-made antipersonnel and antivehicle mines in the Swat Valley, which it attributes to the Pakistani Taliban and "foreign elements."
Human Rights Watch said that because the area where the fighting continues is a closed military zone with journalists and human rights monitors barred from entering, it is currently not possible to verify this information independently. The area is under indefinite curfew, lifted only to allow civilians to flee.
In addition to the Pakistani Taliban, Landmine Monitor has previously reported other armed groups operating in Baluchistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Northwest Frontier Provinces to possess and use antipersonnel mines. Firoz Ali Alizada, mine survivor from Afghanistan and ICBL's Treaty Implementation Officer said: "Most governments in the world, and many non-state armed groups, have given up the use of antipersonnel mines because of the unacceptable suffering they cause to civilians during and after conflicts. We urge the Taliban in Pakistan to stop laying mines that threaten their own people."
Pakistan is not a State Party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and trade of antipersonnel mines. Pakistan has previously used mines along its border with India and along the Line of Control in Kashmir.