DUSHANBE, September 12, Asia-Plus — Residents of rural areas in Tajikistan remain at the mercy of thousands of wartime mines.  Most of the victims are women and children who are gathering firewood as well as shepherds pasturing cattle in the areas.  

Two residents of the Argankul village in Tavildara (eastern Tajikistan), the Sangakov brothers Khurshed, 29, and Nourali, 23, were killed in land mine explosion on September 10, Asia-plus has learned at the Tavildara police directorate.  They were gathering firewood in the mountains, according to the source.

Criminal proceedings have been instituted to probe into the incident and an investigation is under way.       

Most land mines in Tajikistan were laid during the five-year civil war, which ended in 1997.  In many areas the mines still pose a deadly threat as well as a major impediment to effective land use.

Additional mines were laid along the Tajik-Uzbek border by the authorities in Tashkent in the late 1990s. The action was reportedly taken to stave off incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization. 

In the meantime, according to the Tajik Mine Action Cell (TMAC), their demining teams have cleared more than 500,000 square meters of land.  In all, they have to clear another 25 million square meters of land, the TAMC said.