NEWS

Evros border land mines kill seven

Seven people trying to cross illegally into Greece from Turkey were killed yesterday when they entered a minefield on the Greek side of the Evros River. This was the worst single incident caused by land mines in Greece in recent memory and came just a few weeks after the bodies of 23 Pakistanis were found in the worst drowning incident in the river. Only four days earlier, on Sept. 25, foreign ministers George Papandreou and Abdullah Gul had signed an agreement to clear border minefields as soon as possible. Athens ratified the 1997 «Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction» on Sept. 25, while Turkey acceded to it on the same day. Greece had signed the agreement earlier but was waiting for Turkey to agree. A routine military patrol in the Lykofi region near Soufli in the northern part of the border area reported hearing two loud bangs at 9.10 a.m. yesterday. They found the dismembered bodies of seven men over an area of 50 square meters. There were no survivors. A team from the Army Mine-clearing Brigade (TENX) cleared a path to the bodies and retrieved them. The minefield was enclosed within two lines of wire fences and was signposted. The seven, who appeared to be Pakistanis, were to be buried in a Muslim cemetery at the border town of Didymoteicho, alongside scores of others who have died in their effort to seek a better life in the West. «It’s easy for us to talk, but we also have to consider military considerations,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas commented yesterday. This was the worst single incident since five Iraqi Kurdish migrants were killed and 16 injured in a minefield near the Kipi border post in October 1999. According to the Army General Staff, 31 people have been killed by mines on the Greek-Turkish border since 1999. Following bilateral agreements, Greece has destroyed minefields on the borders with Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. But there are still landmines in the Grammos and Vitsi areas, remnants of the civil war, which occasionally cause the death of illegal immigrants.