Nepal lays 10,000 landmines to counter insurgents

Click to follow

Trekkers beware. Stepping off the beaten path in Nepal could prove fatal. A report this week revealed that Nepal now manufactures its own anti-personnel mines and the armed forces in the Himalayan kingdom have studded the countryside beyond the Kathmandu Valley with 10,000 landmines to deter Maoist insurgents. Anti-vehicle mines are said to be supplied to Nepal by China, India and Russia.

Despite government assurances that all minefields, meant to protect police outposts and army barracks, have been fenced off with barbed wire, explosions have killed more than 500 Nepalese and maimed 900 in 32 months. At least a third of the fatalities was civilian, including 25 children.

Since peace talks between government officials and rebels stalled in August, bloodshed has mounted, particularly in impoverished western Nepal. Anti-royalist guerrillas, who control 40 per cent of the country, plant Indian-manufactured mines, along with booby traps and homemade pressure-cooker bombs. A roadside blast last month killed Brigadier General Sagar Bahadur Pande, the most senior officer targeted by the insurgents who model themselves on Peru's Shining Path guerrillas.

The report was released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), to mark the sixth anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty that prohibits use of the hidden devices. Some 141 countries have signed the treaty, but Asia is a particular blackspot.

The United States arms and trains the Nepalese army, which went on the offensive after the Maoists broke a truce in August. The death toll in eight years of strife stands at 8,300. Pitched battles this week killed dozens of rebels and at least six security troops.