STEPANAKERT—The HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization, confirmed that three of its staff members were killed and two injured following an accidental detonation of an anti-tank landmine in the Gazanchi area near Martakert on Thursday morning.
“It is with profound sadness that we report that three of our staff were killed and two injured, by the accidental detonation of an anti-tank landmine in the Ghazanchi area of Nagorno Karabakh on the morning of 29th March,” said a statement issued by HALO Trust.
The organization identified those killed as Pavel Akopov, Samson Avanessian and Marat Petrossian—all citizens of Artsakh. They were in a vehicle conducting minefield survey duties at the time.
The injured are currently being treated in the Stepanakert Hospital and HALO has contacted the families in Artsakh of all those involved.
“We are working closely with the local police and authorities and have called in external investigators to report on the full facts of the incident,” said the HALO statement.
“Every day around the world, more than 8,000 HALO staff go to work in places where no one else can tread and this tragic incident throws into stark relief the dangers that they face and the importance of our work. Our colleagues were killed while working to make the land safe for the people of Nagorno Karabakh,” said James Cowan, HALO’s chief executive officer.
Congressman David Valadao (R-CA), who is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, visited Artsakh last September and met with The HALO Trust team members to learn first-hand of their life-saving demining work in the region. He successfully spearheaded an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 House foreign assistance bill, supported by the ANCA, which secured $1.5 million in support of The HALO Trust’s ongoing demining efforts.
“My heart goes out to those killed and injured by the explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh. These individuals have dedicated their work to ensuring the safety of others and their sacrifice will never be forgotten. This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the ever-present danger in the region. We must continue our work to restore these communities so they may live without fear of mine-related accidents,” said Valadeo upon hearing about the tragic accident.