UN warns Georgia returnees of uncleared land mines

Civilians returning to their homes in Georgia risk being injured or killed by land mines and unexploded bombs left behind from the recent conflict, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday. Thousands of people are returning to villages in Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia now that fighting has ended and Russian troops began their withdrawal last week. "We're advising returnees through the local media to watch out for unexploded ordnance and to stay away from villages not yet cleared of mines and declared safe by the authorities," said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR was particularly concerned about children stepping on mines, he said, but added that exact figures on the number of leftover explosives are not available. Redmond told journalists in Geneva that experience from the conflict in the former Serbian province of Kosovo proved civilians often ignore warnings about land mines, resulting in deaths and injuries.