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Harry in safe detonation of landmine as he retraces mother’s footsteps in Angola

The Duke of Sussex wore a protective visor as he stepped into a partially cleared minefield

Harry followed in his mother’s footsteps with his visit (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Harry followed in his mother’s footsteps with his visit (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent in Dirico, Angola

The Duke of Sussex donned body armour and a protective visor while setting off a controlled explosion in a partially cleared minefield similar to one visited by his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Harry was highlighting the ongoing threat of the munitions in Angola, the same nation Diana visited in 1997 to urge the world to ban the weapons.

Near the south-eastern town of Dirico, the duke walked into an area that was once an artillery base for anti-government forces who had mined the position in 2000 before retreating.

The duke walked through an area of the site, looking at the marked off areas which could potentially contain landmines.

An anti-personnel mine had been discovered earlier and Harry was asked to set off a controlled explosion to safely destroy the decades-old weapon.

Praising the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, the duke called landmines an “unhealed scar of war”, adding: “By clearing the landmines we can help this community find peace, and with peace comes opportunity.

“Additionally, we can protect the diverse and unique wildlife that relies on the beautiful Kuito river that I slept beside last night.

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Harry walked on a safe path between land dotted with mines (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“That river and those wildlife are your natural assets and, if looked after, will bring you unlimited opportunities in the conservation-led economy.”

The duke called for an international effort to clear remaining landmines from the Okavango watershed in the Angolan highlands – a legacy of the country’s civil war that ended in 2002.

“It is fitting that this project starts in Dirico, at the convergence of the two rivers that flow from Angola’s islands down to the Okavango Delta,” Harry said.

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Harry chats with the Halo Trust’s Jose Antonio, centre, and a mine clearance worker (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“These two rivers provide water and life to over a million people downstream and an essential and incredibly delicate habitat for an abundance of wildlife.

“Just as these rivers extend for miles, so must this project extend far beyond Dirico. Outside the national parks, large parts of this crucial watershed also need to be cleared of landmines.

“Clearing the full watershed will take an international effort. Everyone who recognises the priceless importance of safeguarding Africa’s most intact natural landscape should commit fully to this mission.”

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Harry watches on as a clearance worker uses a metal detector to search for mines (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The dusty scrubland was marked with red warning signs showing the skull and crossbones, with the Portuguese words “Perigo Minas!” and the English translation below – “Danger mines”.

Jose Antonio, of the Halo Trust, took Harry on to the site where his staff have been working since August to make safe, and said he hopes they can complete their painstaking clearance by the end of October.

Like all those visiting the trust’s site, Harry had been given a safety briefing and told not stray off the cleared lanes, touch anything or run.

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Diana, Princess of Wales pictured during her visit to Angola in January 1997 (PA)

He watched as a mine clearance worker used a metal detector to search for the mostly anti-personnel mines buried in the ground.

If one is discovered, staff are trained to move back and carefully remove the soil as they move forward until they reach the munition.

PA

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