United Nations mine clearance workers in South Sudan are considering expanding their operations in the country’s north in the wake of an explosion, apparently from an anti-tank mine recently laid by rebels, that has killed at least 20 people.
Eighteen civilians and two soldiers died when the bus in which they were travelling ran over the mine at about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, on the road from Mayom to Mankien in Unity state, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported.
Another seven people were injured, most of them seriously. UNMISS helped transport some of the injured, who were initially transferred to Malakal, to hospital.
“That route was suspected to be mined but civilian traffic continued to use it because of a lack of alternate routes,” said Lance Malin, the programme manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC), in an interview with the UN News Centre.
Mr. Malin said the explosion was the deadliest ever in South Sudan, which became independent from the rest of Sudan on 9 July.
He said rebels based in Unity were suspected of laying anti-tank mines and possibly anti-personnel mines as well across a number of roads in the area. Rebel militias have been involved in clashes with South Sudanese authorities throughout the year and, after years of conflict, the country has relatively little infrastructure and few working roads.
Mr. Malin said UNMACC – which currently has about 15 people in Unity working on mine clearance, monitoring and verification – is now considering how to enhance its operations to deal with the recent upsurge in landmines in the area.
“We are looking at how we can offer a better service given the scale of the problem,” he said.