Sliding Backwards: Landmine use in LibyaPosted: November 5, 2014
Today’s report from Human Rights Watch confirms that militias fighting over the Tripoli Airport in Libya used anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines. HRW’s report affirms the claims made on social media after the July and August battles when the Libyan Dawn militia ousted the Operation Dignity militia from the airport and Tripoli (Landmines in Africa; Landmines in Africa). In terms of loose alliances, Libyan Dawn is associated with Islamist forces from Misrata while Operation Dignity is led by former Libyan general Khalifa Haftar and is supported by the internationally-recognized government of Libya, which is now based in Tobruk, hundreds of miles from Tripoli near the Egyptian border. Operation Dignity also has the support of elements of the official Libyan army. The Libyan Dawn militia is composed of many of the militias that ousted the Gaddhafi regime in 2011 (Oxford Analytica; Al Arabiya; Middle East Eye). Those militias pledged not to use landmines of any sort in 2011 after the Gaddhafi regime used them widely in his failed bid to keep power (Human Rights Watch) and in the months that followed Gaddhafi’s overthrow, significant progress was made to clear some of the mines in the country (Human Rights Watch). HRW’s report shows that the good work may be unraveling. The continuing and spreading conflict in Libya means new landmine contamination might not be isolated to the Tripoli airport.
As the battle for Benghazi continues in eastern Libya, the Operation Dignity forces appear to have the upper hand. Just as in the battle for Tripoli, reports are emerging about landmine use in Benghazi by the militias. The Libyan army cleared landmines from Sidi Mansour, east of Benghazi as it pushed Libyan Dawn forces from the city. At least one Libyan soldier was killed while trying to dismantle a landmine (Magharebia). If true, this would suggest that the militias which had pledged to not use landmines against Gaddhafi have reneged on that pledge in their fight against Haftar and Operation Dignity.
Libya has many, many landmines already. All combatants and militias in the country should abandon the use of these weapons.
Michael P. Moore
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
November 5, 2014