Landmine victim to meet Irish rescuer

An American aid worker badly injured by a landmine in Somalia will meet today the Irish pilot who rescued him for the first time.

While travelling through the troubled African country in December 1993, Ken Rutherford hit the mine and lost his foot.

Slipping in and out of consciousness, he was airlifted to hospital by Irish pilot Joe Moran who was based in Somalia at the time.

Fifteen years later, Mr Rutherford is in Dublin to address a major international diplomatic conference to agree a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs.

After seeing a photo in the newspapers of him, Mr Moran, who is now retired and lives in Limerick, got in touch with Mr Rutherford and the pair will meet up for the first time today.

Recalling the rescue Mr Moran said: "I was flying supplies to somewhere else in Somalia when the emergency call came through.

"I landed somewhere else to offload cargo and to pick up fuel, a doctor, blood and oxygen on the way.

"In the plane, the medical people were trying to keep him alive and he would not have remembered me as he was confused and in and out of consciousness. The urgency of getting him to Nairobi was paramount."

Mr Rutherford is the victim assistance lobby for the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) at the diplomatic negotiations in Dublin.

Cluster munitions are weapons deployed from the air by aircraft including fighters, bombers and helicopters which open in mid-air scattering hundreds of smaller bomblets over a vast area, comparable to the size of two or three football pitches.

More than 100 countries attending the diplomatic conference aim to sign a treaty banning cluster bombs on Friday, after two weeks of negotiations.

Organisers say if the cluster munition treaty is agreed, it will be the most significant advance in humanitarian and disarmament affairs since the 1997 treaty banning anti-personnel mines was signed.

Delegates from 109 countries have spent the last fortnight hearing first-hand accounts of cluster bomb attacks from survivors from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Serbia and Vietnam.

Meanwhile Chris Clark, head of the United Nations' cluster munitions clearance operations in Lebanon will take part in a panel debate tonight on the impact of the deadly weapon in the troubled country.

There will also be a series of films screened, which Mr Clark will introduce, as part of an awareness campaign about the damage cluster bombs can cause to innocent civilians.

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