S Korean soldiers maimed by suspected landmine

SEOUL - Two South Korean soldiers were seriously injured Tuesday in an apparent landmine explosion while on patrol along the heavily-fortified border with North Korea, a defence ministry spokesman said.

The two staff sergeants were on routine patrol duty in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) - a buffer zone stretching two kilometres on either side of the actual frontier line dividing the two Koreas.

Despite its name, the DMZ is a heavily-militarised area, and peppered with minefields on both sides.

The soldiers were patrolling an area of the border in the northern county of Yeoncheon early Tuesday when the incident occurred.

"The two soldiers, with their legs shattered from the suspected landmine explosion, are now being transported to a military hospital", the spokesman told AFP.

More than a million mines are believed to have been planted along the inter-Korean border, including those which were air-dropped in great numbers in the 1960s at the height of a Cold War confrontation with the North.

When the United States - the South's key military ally - declared last year that it was halting the use of all anti-personnel mines, it made an exception for the inter-Korean border, citing the area's "unique challenges".

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