Tags: somalia | attack | aid | workers

Somalia Attack Highlights Dangers Faced by Aid Workers

Sunday, 07 Jul 2013 06:01 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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A terror attack at a U.N. compound in Somalia last month highlights the dangers faced by humanitarian aid workers there, according to the head of the company that employed the slain workers.

Twenty people — seven jihadists and 13 others — died in the June 19 attack by the Somali group al-Shabaab, which began when militants blew up a bomb-laden truck at the gates of the U.N. compound in Mogadishu and gunmen rushed in and opened fire.

In claiming responsibility for the attack, al-Shabaab termed the United Nations “a merchant of death.”

Three of the dead (two South Africans and a Somali) worked for Danel Mechem — a South African company that specializes in mine removal.

Mechem’s CEO, Stephan Burger, said last week that that the Mogadishu attack and the May kidnapping of 12 of the company’s de-mining staff members in Senegal are reminders of ”some of the extremely dangerous situations that our dedicated personnel face.”

The workers in Mogadishu and Senegal “are already out there to work with very unstable antipersonnel mines possibly hidden in the ground for more than 15 years,” he told South Africa’s Financial Mail newspaper.

Burger said children are especially vulnerable to land mines because they like to play and explore fields. He said it was his firm’s policy to send a small, specialized team to a host country and then to hire locals and train them in dog handling and de-mining.

There are estimated to be more than 110 million active mines scattered across 78 countries, and buried land mines can remain active for more than half a century.

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