WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) extends its condolences to The HALO Trust family upon learning the news of the tragic loss of three HALO Trust employees, Pavel Akopov, Samson Avanesyan, and Marat Petrosyan, who died while clearing mines in Artsakh, as well as Garik Ghahilyan and Aram Mkrtchyan who were seriously injured. The Assembly also expresses its deep gratitude for the important work and service of The HALO Trust. Armenians will always remember Pavel, Samson, and Marat, whose lives were lost while clearing landmines to keep the people of Armenia and Artsakh safe, and will pray during this Easter Holy Week for the full recovery of Garik and Aram.
The HALO Trust, the international landmine clearing organization, issued the following official statement and description of the tragedy earlier today, describing the incident. “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 March 29th. The staff members were in a vehicle conducting minefield survey duties at the time,” according to the 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.”
Since 2000, HALO has been the only agency clearing the minefields and cluster munition strikes in Artsakh. According to its website: “Mine clearance in Karabakh has not only greatly decreased the casualty rate but it has also allowed roads, schools, and housing to be built, water pipes to be laid, fields to be cultivated, livestock to be safely grazed, and people to go about their daily business without fear. The benefits of the clearance are tangible and the cleared land can be safely used in perpetuity.”
Between 2000-2016, The HALO Trust in Artsakh has destroyed 180,858 small arms ammunition, 48,572 units of “other explosive items,” 12,423 cluster bombs, 8,733 anti-personnel landmines, and 2,584 anti-tank landmines. HALO has cleared 88 percent of the territory’s minefields, with the goal to clear all landmines in Artsakh by 2020. According to HALO, Artsakh has “the highest per capita incidence of landmine accidents in the world – a third of the victims are children.”
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.