"Hurt Locker" star braves real Afghan minefield

Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:25am EDT
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By Jonathon Burch

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Better known for defusing bombs in Iraq in the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker," actor Jeremy Renner braved a live minefield in Afghanistan on Sunday to draw attention to the tireless work of clearing mines that kill and maim years after being buried.

Despite years of effort to dig up mines planted during decades of civil war and Soviet occupation, more than 650 square kilometers (250 sq mile) of Afghan territory are still considered active minefields.

While 2009 saw a significant drop in numbers, thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by mines or explosive war remnants over the past 30 years with many losing limbs or suffering serious scarring.

To emphasize the scale of the problem, 39-year-old Renner teamed up with the United Nations in Afghanistan this week, visiting an Afghan de-mining team north of the capital Kabul.

"It's tremendous," he told Reuters during his visit to a minefield in Bagram, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Kabul.

"Seeing the guys firsthand is a wonderful gift for me," he said. "I don't think there are many guys in my position -- I'm just a silly actor -- that get an opportunity to come out to Afghanistan at a time of war and get to experience this."

"The Hurt Locker," which picked up six Oscars including best picture last year, follows an elite band of soldiers who disarm roadside bombs on the streets of Iraq.

At the center is Renner's character, Staff Sergeant William James, a reckless rebel. In one scene, he strips off his protective gear before strolling up to defuse a roadside bomb, despite protests by his fellow soldiers.   Continued...