Sri Lanka says minefields cleared for re-settlement

COLOMBO, May 16, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops have completed clearing mines from all areas needed for re-settlement and farming in the island’s former war zone, the military said Thursday, nearly four years after crushing Tamil rebels. Sri Lanka’s army reported one soldier died and 15 were wounded during the mine clearing, while several civilians were killed in mine-related accidents. The military said it had removed nearly a million unexploded ordnances, including anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and improvised explosive devices, from the northern and eastern regions where the rebels fought for independence.

“We have been able to clear all areas essential for resettlement of people and (re-establishment of) their livelihoods such as agriculture,” military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement.

Out of a mine-infested area of 2,064 square kilometres (796 square miles), more than 95 percent had been cleared and made safe, the statement said.

Wanigasooriya said only a few thick jungle patches remained to be checked for mines planted during the protracted Tamil separatist war which ended when troops killed the top rebel leadership in a final offensive in May 2009.

The military, along with several local a