The United Nations is considering boosting mine clearance in South Sudan after a deadly blast killed at least 20 people at the weekend, a UN demining official said late on Wednesday.
Four children, four women, 10 male civilians and two soldiers were killed in the suspected anti-tank mine explosion which blew up a civilian bus in oil-rich Unity State on Sunday, the UN said.
Dissident militiamen have been active in Unity since South Sudan won independence in June and are suspected of mining the road where the blast struck in Mayom, west of the state capital Bentiu.
"That route was suspected to be mined but civilian traffic continued to use it because of a lack of alternate routes," said Lance Malin, programme manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC).
Malin said UNMACC may ramp up operations to deal with the threat from new mine-laying by dissident armed groups.
"It’s a significant problem and it’s suspected to be rebel militias that are sponsored by unknown sources," he told AFP.
In Unity, a breakaway faction rejected a ceasefire signed by militia commander Peter Gadet in August, accusing him of accepting bribes from the South Sudan government.
Terje Eldoen, Mine Action Programme Manager for Norwegian People’s Aid in South Sudan, said the recent increase in land mine explosions was a major concern as aid agencies had made a large effort to clear roads in the fledgling nation.
"These accidents could not have happened without somebody laying new mines, because the roads have been used for a long time", Eldoen said.
With the dry season just weeks away, demining agencies fear further mine-laying by the dissident militias.