US-left unexploded ordnance still claiming lives of Afghans

"The Americans bombarded here in the past, but the remaining bombs still claim the lives of children and youngsters...If someone steps on them, he or she would be killed," Samiullah, an Afghan villager said.

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Children are pictured in a village threatened by unexploded ordnance left by U.S. forces in Farah Province, Afghanistan, July 26, 2023. (Photo by Marshal/Xinhua)

Khudai Rahim, a 54-year-old Afghan, lost two sons in blasts of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in 2021, and his third son was severely injured in a mine blast in 2022 just around their village.

“He (The third son) found a mine. It might be a mortar mine, and he played with it. He was a child and didn’t know what that was, but the object exploded and badly injured his belly,” said Rahim, a resident of Rigretion village in Farah Rod district, Farah Province.

The last soldier of the U.S.-led forces left Afghanistan in late August 2021 after 20 years of military occupation, but the UXO left over from the U.S. troops have been and are about to be claiming the lives of Afghans for years or even decades.

Sitting beside his dejected son and comforting him, Rahim told Xinhua that he had spent 375,000 afghanis (about 4,500 U.S. dollars) in a hospital for his injured son to recover.

According to the aged Rahim, the U.S. forces bombarded Rigretion village four years ago.

“The warplanes bombarded the village, they targeted here from the ground and air, and they used any kind of shells,” the bereaved man recalled. He could clearly point out the potential spots of the UXO buried around his home.

Echoing similar concerns, Samiullah, another 17-year-old Rigretion villager, said that the UXO left by the U.S. forces would continue to threaten the lives of Afghans.

“My 15-year-old brother was killed here about one and half months ago,” Samiullah muttered with grief.

“The Americans bombarded here in the past, but the remaining bombs still claim the lives of children and youngsters…If someone steps on them, he or she would be killed,” Samiullah said.

Expressing similar fear, Mohammad Ibrahim, 33, a victim of the UXO, said that the bombs had maimed him forever.

“About four or five years ago, our village was bombarded, and the bombs exploded. But seven days later, another blast (of the UXO) maimed me, and after 20 days, I recovered consciousness in a hospital in Karachi and saw my hand was cut off,” Ibrahim, who lives in Todanak village, said with sorrow.

He said he has not received any forms of compensation so far.

Afghan land is contaminated with unexploded ordnances, which killed and injured tens of thousands of Afghans, especially children, as they travel and go about their daily chores, according to a report from the “Costs of War” project under Brown University.

The International Committee of the Red Cross pointed out that children are the most vulnerable victims of the UXO, noting in its report that 640 children were killed or injured in 541 incidents involving landmine explosions and explosive remnants between January 2022 and June 2023, nearly 60 percent of the total number of civilian casualties of UXO-related explosions.

Children can easily regard these unexploded bombs as toys, which would explode while they take them home. In the past, the mines were used to ensure security in areas around the U.S. military bases, where there are are still many residential dwellings in present days.

Despite the withdrawal of the U.S. forces, the left-over mines have been killing people nearly every day, said Sadiq Shinwari, an Afghan military expert.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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