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HEADLINE: Greek Cypriot dies after walking into army minefield
2003-08-15 10:04:43

Agence France Presse August 14, 2003 Thursday
SECTION: International News
HEADLINE: Greek Cypriot dies after walking into army minefield DATELINE: NICOSIA, Aug 14


A Greek Cypriot civilian died Thursday after walking into a clearly marked army minefield near the southeastern village of Athienou, bordering the UN-manned Green Line dividing Cyprus, officials said.

The man aged between 45 and 50 is said to have parked his car 200 metres (yards) from the minefield and walked into the danger zone despite it being clearly signposted and protected by barbed wire.

Soldiers at a nearby National Guard post in the area saw the man head for the minefield but were powerless to intervene in time.

"There was no reason for the civilian to be inside the minefield. We don't know why this happened," Defence Minister Koulis Mavronicolas told the privately run Sigma TV.

"He stopped his car, and according to eyewitnesses, headed for the minefield at pace and there was an explosion."

Despite the large numbers of landmines still littering Cyprus, civilian deaths have been rare.

The minister said such "terrible incidents" should not happen but were unavoidable due to the island's forced division.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup aimed at annexing Cyprus to Greece.

Cyprus has ratified the 1997 Ottawa mine-ban treaty to clear anti-personnel mines outside the UN-controlled buffer zone.

"There is an effort to demine National Guard minefields," said Mavronicolas.

How many such mines the National Guard has south of the buffer zone is unknown.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, last month, offered to clear mines around the divided Cypriot capital.

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos welcomed Denktash's demining offer but noted that the Greek Cypriots had already offered to remove landmines from the entire buffer zone not just Nicosia.

Greek Cypriots are committed to unilaterally removing an estimated 2,308 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines from a total 11 National Guard minefields inside the buffer zone.

It is thought that the Turkish army has 28 minefields of their own along the 180-kilometre (110-mile) ceasefire line where an estimated 17,000 mines are laid.
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