By Shadi Khan Saif
Five Afghan de-miners working to clear a path for the multi-billion dollar Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline were killed in the restive Kandahar province, officials confirmed on Monday.
Zia Durrani, spokesman for the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the province, told Anadolu Agency the incident took place at around 10.00 am (0530GMT) in the Maiwand district. He accused the Taliban of killing five de-miners and abducting another one.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Notably, the Taliban had announced backing for the TAPI project.
Local Tolo News reported the de-miners were associated with the Aims De-mining Company (AMDC), which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2010.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has condemned the attack, noting that in 2017 it recorded over 2,000 victims of mines in Afghanistan, or 170 a month, the highest monthly average since 2001.
In February, Afghanistan hosted top officials from Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India for the groundbreaking ceremony of the TAPI project, due to also link the four countries via a network of roads, railways, and fiber optics.
Conceived in the 1990s, practical work on this mega-project linking energy-rich Central Asia with energy-starved South Asia via war-ravaged Afghanistan began in 2015. Under the $10 billion project, up to 33 billion cubic meters of gas would be carried annually from the Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan to the town of Fazilka in Indian Punjab via the 1,814-kilometre pipeline passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan.