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DUSHANBE -- Two Tajik citizens died near the Uzbek-Tajik border after stepping on a land mine last week, RFE/RL's Uzbek and Tajik services report.

Oybek Ibrahimov and his wife, Zarifa Karimova, were collecting firewood in the border area of Tajikistan's northwestern Isfara district on December 25 when the land mine exploded.

Orom Yorov, a Tajik border guard official, told RFE/RL on December 29 that the couple died on the spot.

Jonmahmad Rajabov, the head of Tajikistan's demining center, told RFE/RL that some 11 million square meters in Tajikistan still need to be cleared of land mines, most of which are left from the 1992-1997 Tajik civil war.

He said that some 800 people have stepped on land mines since the end of the war, killing about 400 people in Tajikistan.

Rajabov said Tajikistan has maps of the land mines on its territory and that clearance operations have been conducted.

But he added that Tajikistan does not have information regarding the location of the mines on the Uzbek-Tajik border.

The border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was mined by the Uzbek government in 2000 under the pretext of combating terrorism and drug trafficking after armed members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan entered Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan from Afghanistan in an effort to reach Uzbekistan.

More than 70 Tajiks have been killed and about 80 injured by those mines since 2000, almost all of the victims being civilians.

In 2009, there were eight cases of people stepping on land mines on the Uzbek-Tajik border. Four of them were fatal.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has spent more than 5 million euros ($7.5 million) on demining projects in Tajikistan in the last six years.
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