Landmine-sniffing rat continues legacy of fallen hero

image source, Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
image captionHowes, the mine-sniffing rat works in Cambodia for the British landmine charity the Mines Advisory Group (MAG)

A rat named in memory of a landmine clearance expert and former British soldier is continuing his work 25 years after his murder.

The landmine-sniffing rat Howes has just started her new job clearing the deadly legacy of conflict in Cambodia.

Christopher Howes from Backwell, North Somerset and his colleague Houn Hourth were killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1996.

The idea to name the rat came from two of Howes' old school friends after they visited Cambodia to honour his work.

image source, Howes family.
image captionChristopher Howes was kidnapped and killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1996

Christopher, 36, and his interpreter Houn were working in Cambodia with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning British landmine charity the Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

They were kidnapped along with their team on 26 March 1996.

Christopher and Houn successfully urged the release of the team offering to stay with their captors to secure their colleagues' freedom.

Both men were murdered days later by Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

image source, other
image captionInterpreter Houn Hourth was also killed by the Khmer Rouge

Christopher had previously served with the Royal Engineers for seven years and was posthumously awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal in 2001.

His sister Pat Phillips said: "He was passionate about the landmine cause.

"He always assured us he was careful at his job and wouldn't be hurt, but murder was another thing."

The African giant pouched rats are trained to detect a chemical compound within the explosives, meaning they ignore scrap metal and can search for mines more quickly.

Once they find an explosive they scratch the top to alert their human co-workers.

MAG's Cambodia country director Alexey Kruk said: "Chris and Houn were killed while carrying out their life-saving work freeing communities from the fear of landmines."

"They were selfless and brave, we remember them as heroes."

image source, Mines Advisory Group
image captionLandmine detection dogs and rats have helped find and destroy 314,000 landmines and unexploded bombs in Cambodia

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