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9 children dead after old land mine explodes in Afghanistan

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An old land mine found by children in eastern Afghanistan exploded while they were playing with it, killing nine children, a Taliban spokesperson said Monday.

The mine, which the children found near their village in Gero district in Ghazni province, was from decades ago, said Hamidullah Nisar, director of the Taliban's information and culture department in Ghazni.

He said the explosion Sunday killed five boys and four girls who were 5 to 10 years old.

"An unexploded mine left over from the time of the Russian invasion went off when they were playing with it," Nisar said, according to AFP. "Unfortunately, it killed nine children." 

Also on Sunday, another child died and five more people were wounded when unexploded ordnance went off in Herat province, AFP reported, citing a social media post from local police.

Afghanistan has suffered from decades of war and remains highly dangerous for children who collect scrap metal to sell to support their families. Many are killed or maimed when they come across unexploded ordinance.

An Afghan de-miner searches for land mines in the Zhari district of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. After a quarter century of war, Afghanistan is still littered with old land mines and other unexploded ordnance. AP Photos/Allauddin Khan

Swathes of Afghanistan are littered with unexploded mines, grenades and mortars left over from those conflict periods, spanning the Soviet invasion in 1979, the civil war that followed and the 20-year Taliban insurgency against foreign-backed governments.

While violence has reduced dramatically since the Taliban seized power in August 2021, ending their insurgency, unexploded ordnance and mines still claim lives regularly, with the International Committee of the Red Cross saying children are the main victims.

Since 1989, about 44,000 Afghan civilians have been recorded to have been killed or injured by land mines and explosive remnants of war, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). A UNICEF report for 2022 documented around 700 children maimed or killed — almost 2 children per day — by explosive ordnance.    

Agence France-Presse contributed reporting.

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