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UN Mine Clearer Dies in Nicosia Blast

A UN mine clearer from Mozambique died in an explosion yesterday morning in a minefield southeast of Nicosia, said the UN today.

The dead mine expert was Femisberto Novele, a member of the Mine Action Center Cyprus (MACC). It was the group's first fatality in five years of work on the island.

The incident took place at at about 8:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) in a minefield inside the 180 km long buffer zone under UN control.

Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UN Peacekeeping Forces In Cyprus (UNFICYP), said he was saddened and shocked to learn of the accident, which he called "a tragic reminder of the dangers landmines still pose in Cyprus."

The UN envoy conveyed condolences to Novele's family on behalf of the UN team in Cyprus.

The minefields were created by both sides in Cyprus, following the 1974 Turkish military intervention in response to a short-lived coup by the Greek military regime.

The UN has brokered an agreement for the removal of mines in an operation mostly funded by the European Union. Since 2004, the MACC has removed and destroyed more than 14,000 mines with the support of UNFICYP.

A total of 57 minefields have been cleared to date, covering more than 6.5 million square meters of land.

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