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Mozambique to Be Declared Free of Landmines

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2001 file photo, former rebel soldier Abdul Momed Gofulof, clears land mines in Hnadane, 62 miles south of Maputo, Mozambique.

Mozambique will be declared free of landmines on Thursday, a charity dedicated to mine clearance said, ending two decades of work to rid one of the world's poorest countries of explosives left over from a civil war.

HALO Trust said it had destroyed the last known mine on the territory of the gas- and coal-rich southern African country, which was devastated by a civil conflict that ended in 1992.

The charity said it had cleared more than 171,000 landmines since 1993.

"The government of Mozambique will officially declare the country free of landmines today," HALO Trust, a British charity, said in a statement on its web site.

"Mine clearance has helped the country develop its infrastructure, access vital commodities such as gas and coal, increase tourism and attract international investment. Communities can now cultivate crops and graze livestock safely."

A former Portuguese colony on the Indian Ocean, Mozambique is still one of the world's least-developed nations, but it is starting to tap huge coal and natural gas deposits with foreign investors.