Unidentified attackers killed two land mine clearers in an ambush in southern Sudan, the head of the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action said Tuesday. Two Sudanese soldiers accompanying the mine clearers' convoy were wounded. Henri Leu, president of the foundation, said the attack Monday hit the mine clearers returning from their work site near Juba to their base camp.
"This was not an area considered particularly dangerous," Leu told reporters. The group has been working in the area since Aug. 1 and the trip was considered routine.
One of those slain was mine-clearing supervisor Boya Casper, 34, from northern Iraq, who has "enormous experience" in clearing land mines, Leu said. Casper, who is survived by his wife and two young daughters, had been working for the foundation in southern Sudan for two months.
Leu said he was unable to release the identity of the other slain staffer, a locally hired Sudanese mine clearer, because the foundation had so far been unable to reach his family living in a remote area.
Leu said it was the first time the foundation had lost any employees since it was founded in 1997.
"It could also have been an attack by highway bandits who wanted to rob our team, but it also could have been aimed at interrupting our work."
Three vehicles, painted white and bearing logos of the World Food Program and the foundation, were in the convoy that was ambushed, he said, according to the AP.
The first two vehicles escaped. Boya and the slain Sudanese staffer were in the third vehicle, Leu said.
"We have suspended operations pending results of the investigation," he said.
The organization is clearing 600 kilometers (400 miles) or roads in the Juba area so that the World Food Program can deliver its relief supplies safely, Leu said.