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Landmine explodes under tractor in Mammari (Updated, adds comments)

A UN de-miner near Mammari recently

By Evie Andreou

UNFICYP confirmed on Monday that a landmine exploded outside the UN-controlled buffer zone in the Mammari area around noon.

The explosion damaged a tractor but the driver, Ieronymos Yerolemou, was not seriously injured.

According to sources, the blast occurred when a tractor driven by Yerolemou, who was ploughing a field in an area controlled by the Turkish army, hit a landmine.

The farmer, who was taken for precautionary reasons to hospital, was later discharged without any serious injuries, but his tractor, which was reportedly thrown five metres up in the air from the explosion, was severely damaged.

Yerolemou said that that the field he entered is right next to the minefield near Mammari village in the buffer zone, which a group of Cambodian de-miners had cleared in late May and had the area cleared after winter floods had carried landmines from a military zone in the north into the buffer zone.

The peace-keeping force announced last month that it has cleared the minefield and was to return the area back to its owners to cultivate it.

According to sources, the specific minefield where the explosion occurred on Monday is outside the UN buffer zone, and falls under the jurisdiction of the Turkish Cypriot side.

But Yerolemou claims the field was not adequately marked, thus he had no idea he was in a minefield.

“Luckily, the tractor was big and absorbed the blast. It is destroyed and it remains there [in the field]”, Yerolemou said.

He added that the field was abandoned since 1974 and was given back to him following the recent mine clearing of the nearby area by UNFICYP.

Mammari community leader Polys Kodjapashis said that after the incident, other people who own land in that area have too expressed their concerns.

“The incident took place in a clearly marked minefield located north of the buffer zone. The minefield was properly fenced with warning signs. Fortunately the incident did not result in any casualties on this occasion,” UNFICIYP spokesman Aleem Siddique told the Cyprus Mail.

He added that UNFICYP would continue to conduct patrols to ensure safety and security around hazard areas within the UN buffer zone.

“UNFICYP continues to urge members of the public to maintain a safe distance from all hazardous areas, to obey the mine warning signs, and comply with UNFICYP’s instructions,” Siddique said.

UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Kristin Lund had said last month that they had secured the Turkish Cypriots’ commitment to clear the area north of the ceasefire line in the coming months.

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