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Zimbabwe Says It Has Started Pulling Out Troops From Controversial Diamond Fields

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that the government has started to withdraw military forces from the Marange field where human rights and other abuses have been alleged

Zimbabwe says it has started pulling its security forces out of the controversial Marange diamond fields in the east of the country pursuant to an agreement with the Kimberly Process following allegations of human rights abuses.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told the state-run Herald newspaper that soldiers and police have started leaving the diamond fields in eastern Manicaland province to meet Kimberly conditions to avoid an export ban.

Mpofu said the government has done a lot to try to comply with Kimberly requirements. He said a private-sector partner is launching operations in Marange and putting its own security in place.

But sources close to the situation said it will be hard for the two South African companies which are mining just one claim to handle security.

Kimberly Process Chairman Bernard Esau told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the watchdog organization will have to send its own monitors to verify government assertions the field is being demilitarized.

Human Rights Watch researcher Dewa Mavhinga voiced skepticism as to the ministers announcement of a military pullout from Marange.