04 September 2008

UN peacekeeper killed by blast in south Lebanon

(Beirut, September 3, 2008) - A United Nations peacekeeper in south Lebanon was killed by an explosion Wednesday while clearing unexploded ordnance, a U.N. official said.Yasmina Bouziane, a spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL, said the blast took place while the peacekeepers were clearing unexploded ordnance near the village of Aitaroun, close to the border with Israel.The peacekeeper was not identified, pending notification of relatives.Bouziane said in a statement that medical and explosion teams were immediately dispatched to the site of the blast and that an investigation was under way.Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the soldier was Belgian and that another unidentified peacekeeper was wounded in the blast caused by a land mine left behind by Israeli forces.More than 30 people have died in cluster bombs or land mine blasts in Lebanon since the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas, according to Dalya Farran, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center.Farran said that 14 de-mining experts from the Lebanese army, the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon and private mine action teams have also died in similar explosions in the past two years.The United Nations and human rights groups say Israel dropped about 4 million cluster bomblets during the 34-day Israel-Hezbollah conflict. U.N. experts say that up to 1 million of these devices failed to explode and now endanger civilians in the area.(International Herald Tribune, September 3, 2008)