At this year’s Academy Awards, the Danish film, “Land of Mine,” was one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Picture. “Land of Mine” (Under Sandet in Danish) lost to the Iranian film, “The Salesman,” but garnered quite a bit of attention for its subject: in the days after World War II, the Danish government forced German prisoners of war to clear the landmines placed on Danish soil during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. I haven’t seen it yet, but as a fact-based account, I am looking forward to this film. Other the flip side and made of pure hokum, is “Mine” starring Armie Hammer as a US military sniper who steps on a landmine and hears the fateful, “click,” as the mine arms itself. Hammer then has to survive for 52 hours on the same mine as he waits for rescue. We’ve covered this before, but landmines don’t go “click,” they just explode. Having them go click may be a good trick for heightening narrative tension, but it is also supremely lazy writing.
Check out “Kilo Two Bravo.” Like “Land of Mine,” “Kilo Two Bravo” is based upon real events, specifically the experiences of a British army unit in Afghanistan which, during a routine patrol of a dry riverbed near the Kajaki dam, wanders into a minefield. The mines don’t go click. They wait like silent predators, unseen and unmarked, until they are disturbed. The filmmakers treat the landmines like monsters in a horror movie which is what “Kilo Two Bravo” is: a modern monster movie with tragic, terrible and real outcomes. The soldiers try desperately to save one another and incur additional injuries in the process, but steadfastly refuse to withdraw until they are all rescued. The audience knows the mines are there but it is still a shock when they detonate because landmine explosions are inherently shocking. Writing gimmicks are not needed to heighten the tension, the facts of the situation facing the characters creates its own tension. A very good, if tough movie, which shows the true horror of these weapons.
A woman living on the border with Zimbabwe was gardening in her yard when she detonated a landmine that had been left behind when the area was a military base in the Apartheid era. The woman was injured in the arm and face. This incident followed one a year earlier when a person was killed salvaging scrap metal in the same area (All Africa).
A suspected landmine from the Lord’s Resistance Army severely injured six children in Pader District who found the explosive and were striking it with sticks (All Africa).
A Biafran War-era landmine was discovered in Ebonyi state, sparking panic that it might be an improvised explosive device (IED), until the item’s actual provenance was confirmed by local police. The police also searched the nearby area but found no other explosive remnants of war (ERW) (All Africa).
In further news of relics from long ago wars, herders in Kenya’s Samburu county found two bombs in an area that had been a British army training post during the colonial period. The bombs were reported to the police who collected them for destruction. There have been many such discoveries of abandoned munitions in the area, some made by children tending herds (All Africa).
Five Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine in the central Mopti region of the country (Agence France Press). Three other Malian soldiers were killed and fourth injured by a landmine as the soldiers traveled to the northern city of Gao (The News).
One child was killed and seven others wounded by an ERW. The children found the item in the woods near their home which is southwest of Algiers and was thought to be a stronghold for Islamist rebels during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s (Maghreb Emergent).
In much better news for Algeria, the nation declared that all known border minefields and anti-personnel landmines have been cleared, fulfilling the Mine Ban Treaty obligations under Article 5. During the course of the work, almost 9 million mines were destroyed and 62,000 hectares of land were cleared. Algeria joins Tunisia as the second North African state to achieve this milestone (Africa Times).
A military messenger was killed by a landmine in the western part of the city of Benghazi (Al Wasat). Landmine and ERW clearance in Benghazi has been extremely dangerous and several deminers from military engineering units have been killed and injured by explosives laid by Islamic State members as booby traps (Arab 24). An explosive booby trap claimed the life of a special forces volunteer when he was searching and clearing a house in Benghazi (Al Wasat). As Libyan forces made progress towards liberating Benghazi, a brigade commander was killed in the Ganfouda neighborhood (Libya Herald). A second unit commander was killed by a landmine just as the army declared Ganfouda liberated, leaving only “mopping up” operations to fully secure the city of Benghazi (Libya Herald)
Twenty years ago this month, a divorced mother of two boys took a walk through a field. Photos show her walking alone, although there were large contingents of deminers and reporters close by. This brief walk, maybe a couple hundred meters and just a minutes, showed that humanitarian demining worked and could be trusted to make land safe for even the most famous woman in the world, Princess Diana. The government of Angola, the HALO Trust (Diana’s host for that walk), and diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, gathered to recognize the anniversary of Diana’s minefield walk and re-commit to a mine-free Angola. The United States committed an additional US $4 million to landmine clearance as the participants in the event recognized that landmines still pose a danger to Angolans, as evidenced by the death of a child from an anti-tank mine a couple months earlier in a town just a few kilometers away (HALO Trust, Relief Web)
Elsewhere in Angola, a mine-risk education campaign in southern Cunene province targeted school children and shoppers at local markets to reduce the likelihood of accidents (ANGOP).
In the World War II battle of El Alamein, the tank battalions of Great Britain and Germany famously faced off, but they were not alone. On the German side could be found many Italian soldiers, and the legacy of that Italian involvement is still being recognized. A decade ago, an Italian Air Force officer found minefield maps that were shared with the Egyptian government and some amateur and professional Italian historians are scouring wartime diaries and journals to uncover more information that may be of help to the Egyptian government in its demining efforts. Now, satellite images are being used to further refine the information in those maps as battlefield locations are pinpointed (The Daily Beast).
Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation announced the establishment of a national center for mine action that will clear 150,000 acres of landmines from the northern coast. The center will also provide mine risk education and support survivor assistance with the creation of a prosthetics facility (Daily News).
A man was killed by a landmine when his car struck the mine near the village of Jreyfiya (Sahara Confidential).
Since the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in December 2013, the contamination from ERW has increased, especially in Bentiu and Upper Nile States. Equatoria State remains heavily contaminated from ERW from the civil wars when South Sudan was still a part of Sudan (Eye Radio).
Michael P. Moore
February 28, 2017
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Syria and Yemen deservedly get the majority of the news about use of cluster munitions and landmines, but North Africa has also seen fairly widespread use of these weapons in the last few years. Beginning with the Gaddhafi regime’s use to try and hold off the liberation forces encouraged by Arab Spring, through current use by various Islamist groups, new landmine use can be seen in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria. In Libya and Sudan, government aligned forces have been alleged to use cluster munitions. The use of these weapons in these ongoing conflicts means that their effects will be felt for years to come, in countries which already faced substantial burdens of explosive remnants of war.
During World War II, British and German armies laid some 17 million landmines in the western deserts of Egypt, an area that became famous as the tank battle of El Alamein. Most of those landmines remain in the deserts and until recently have only been a threat to the nomadic communities who make the desert their home. Two people were killed and three injured by a mine in the Wasy el-Natroun area. Egypt now has plans to development much of the western desert to take advantage of the natural gas deposits that lie below the surface and has cleared 155 square kilometers of desert of mines (Daily News Egypt), but another actor has also emerged with plans for the minefields: the Islamic State. According to the former director of Egypt’s Mine Action Center, Fathy el-Shazly, there have been at least ten confirmed reports of jihadists digging up old landmines and repurposing them as improved explosive devices, the first coming in 2004. The March 2016 landmine blast in the Red Sea area was attributed to repurposed landmines. Newsweek’s story about ISIS using World War II mines is a bit breathless and sensationalized, but points to another danger of abandoned ordnance. To its credit, Newsweek also highlights the poverty of the nomadic communities in the western desert and notes that some of the nomads are tempted to dig up the old mines and sell them as they have no other form of income (Newsweek).
In the Sinai region, where the Egyptian government is fighting a separate Islamist insurgency, a policy captain was killed while chasing insurgents following a firefight and an attempted bombing of an Al-Arish police station (Ahram).
When Papias Higiro stepped on a landmine shortly after the genocide and civil war in Rwanda, his life prospects were bleak. 21 years later, Papias has received his first prosthetic leg and can fulfill his dream of walking again and will attend vocational training to become a hairdresser. This intervention was made possible by the charitable arm of AirTel, a mobile phone company (All Africa).
The government of Zimbabwe has accused three Zimbabweans living abroad of trying to destabilized the government. One of the men is accused of threatening to plant landmines on the roads to kill a thousand people (The Herald).
In recognition of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, recognized the landmine clearance efforts of the Zimbabwean army, the HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (All Africa).
Nigerian soldiers are clearing landmines and other explosives left by Boko Haram and have arrested five members of the group who are suspected of planting some of the mines (All Africa). The local Nigerian commanders boasted of a massive demining effort covering the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, an effort made possible by the purchase and delivery of demining equipment (Vanguard).
Nigeria is not the only country affected by Boko Haram. Four Chadian soldiers were killed by a Boko Haram landmine near that country’s border with Niger (Reuters).
In Libya, the army under General Haftar, has ousted Islamic State forces from the city of Sirte, but Islamic State laid many landmines and booby traps. Deminers from the army and from Libya’s intelligence services are now tasked with clearing mines and explosives which have killed over 300 soldiers and injured another 400. At least four deminers have been killed and another injured trying to clear Sirte. Five months of clearance work remains in Sirte according to a military spokesman (IRIN News). To assist the Libyan forces, the Italian government is believed to have deployed special forces to the country to train Libyan deminers (Sputnik News; Ahram).
General Haftar’s army, while calling for assistance with landmine clearance, has also not helped its own cause by using banned cluster bombs. In official photos published by the Libyan National Army (LNA), army helicopters are shown carrying the munitions, which challenges the LNA’s denial of use of such weapons in Derna and Benghazi (War is Boring).
In addition to the LNA’s cluster bombs, the Islamic State left landmines in Derna city, one of which killed a leader of the Shura Council of Mujahideen, an Islamist group that ousted Islamic State before being besieged by the LNA (Libyan Express).
In Benghazi two soldiers were killed and two more wounded at a checkpoint in the Al Gawarsha district (Libya Observer). And in Misrata, the local hospital reported three soldiers killed in two separate incidents, both attributed to Islamic State landmines (Libya Observer).
Of course, the extensive use of landmines can also backfire as seen in Sirte when an Islamic State member tried to drive an explosive laden car into Al Bunyan Al Marsoos positions and struck a landmine laid by Islamic State forces, destroying the car and causing no casualties beyond the driver (Libyan Observer).
Three Tunisian soldiers were killed and seven more injured by an anti-tank landmine in the western region of the country, near the Algerian border. The mountainous region has been a hideout for militants since the start of Arab Spring in 2011 (Press TV).
The Algerian army cleared 866 landmines dating back to the liberation war against the French. This was part of the ongoing clearance work along the borders of the country. Algeria is also facing a current threat from Islamist groups that are fighting against the government and the army. In the last year and a half, Algerian has killed or arrested hundreds of suspected Islamists and the government claims that the Islamists have mostly been defeated and the government is now trying to consolidate its position and make the affected areas safe for the population. The government reported the seizure of two landmines that were believed to have been intended for use along the country’s roads. In just such an incident, four civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a mine attributed to Islamist groups (Strategy Page; Defence Web).
Michael P. Moore
September 26, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Two stories this month, one from Libya and one from Sudan, remind us of the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). In Libya, an experienced and knowledgeable deminer was killed in the line of duty; in Sudan some children played with an unexploded munition with tragic results. Mine risk education is a vital part of mine action, but despite the numerous warnings in Sudan, people, including children, continue to tamper with mines and ERW. However, even those most aware of the risks of explosive devices can still fall victim to them. The lesson is this: the sooner all such items are cleared and destroyed, the sooner we can all live a little more securely. On to the news:
The low price of oil has created a serious economic crisis in Angola. Many government subsidies have been cut as revenues from oil have evaporated. However, the Minister of Welfare and Social Reintegration stated that programs benefitting some of the most vulnerable Angolans, including landmine clearance, will continue (All Africa).
The deputy governor of Cabinda province, Angola’s hub for oil production, announced that between 2008 and 2015, 2.1 million square meters of land had been cleared of mines, along with 586 kilometers of road (All Africa). In southern Cunene province, 41,000 square meters of land were cleared in the first half of 2016 (All Africa).
In areas liberated from Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, returnees are unable to farm their lands for fear of the landmines placed by Boko Haram. This is one of the factors that is creating a famine with two million people needing food aid (All Africa). In Borno state, personnel from Medicins Sans Frontieres were involved in a landmine incident that went unreported until a Nigerian army convoy was ambushed by Boko Haram in the same area a few days later (Trends).
Four people were injured in the Kenyan town of Mandera, near the border with Somalia, by a landmine blamed on Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group which has been expanding its geographic reach. The mine was placed near a communications tower as an ambush (All Africa). After the ambush, Kenyan soldiers were accused of attacking and looting the town of Lafey in retaliation for the death of one of the soldiers during the ambush. This is one of many incidents in which military forces fighting Al Shabaab have killed or injured civilians, civilians who are just as traumatized by the acts of Al Shabaab (All Africa).
A Libyan deminer, the Chief of Explosives for Operation Dignity in Benghazi, was killed trying to defuse a landmine. The deminer had previously escaped injury when the car he was in drove over a landmine in May and he had just recently completed a demining course in the United Arab Emirates (Libyan Express). The Libyan forces, led by General Haftar, have suffered many injuries from landmines laid by retreating Islamists. Four special forces members were killed by a landmine in Benghazi’s al-Gwarcha district as the army tries to fully control the city (Daily Mail).
In Zimbabwe the HALO Trust employs a number of female deminers as part of its equal opportunity policy in hiring. For many women in the Mukumbura region where the HALO Trust is working, few formal employment opportunities exist and, thanks to the training and focus of the deminers, female deminers can support their families and build houses (News Day).
Three separate blasts from unexploded ordnance occurred in North Darfur. In the first, two women were killed and a man injured; the survivor lost his hands and feet in the blast (All Africa). In the second, a farmer was killed when he struck an explosive while plowing his fields (All Africa). In the third, two children were killed and a third injured when they played with a munition and tried to set it on fire (Strategy Page).
The government of the Netherlands committed 45 million euros to landmine clearance. In Africa, the Dutch will support demining in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan (Netherlands Times).
The British charity, Find A Better Way, sponsored a dozen trauma surgeons from mine-affected countries to attend a seminar at the Imperial College of London to learn about the latest research and advice for treatment of traumatic amputations. Algeria was among the African nations represented at the seminar (Imperial College of London).
The European Union proposed to shift some development funds to improving the security sector in African and Middle Eastern countries. According to a EU Commission spokesperson, one of the ways these re-allocated funds could be used is for demining by national armies (CCTV).
Michael P. Moore
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
September 6, 2016
April 4th is the International Day of Mine Action and Mine Awareness and there were many celebrations and observances of the day. The United Nations Mine Action Service has compiled stories and photos here and they are worth checking out. Some of the stories below came out because of the April 4th observance and the extra attention that day provides to mine action, but all too many stories also reflect the fact that landmines continue to threaten lives and limbs across the Continent.
Three French soldiers serving in Mali as part of a stabilization mission were killed by a landmine in the northern part of the country. One soldier died immediately while the other two succumbed to their injuries after a day. The soldiers were traveling in a convoy of vehicles from the town of Gao when their vehicle struck a mine (BBC News).
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued its support of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) through the donation of protective equipment, metal detectors and mine risk education materials. Since 2012, the ICRC has been the primary sponsor and support of ZIMAC which is responsible for clearing landmines from Zimbabwe’s national park lands; the HALO Trust and Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) are clearing other parts of the country. The government of Zimbabwe intends to expand the demining capacity in the country with the addition of two more clearance organizations (one of which will be APOPO with its Hero Rats) and a second demining squadron from the national army. Some 62 million square meters of minefield remain in Zimbabwe and 35 cattle have been killed along with 250 wild animals in the most recent rainy season. No mention was made of human casualties (All Africa; All Africa).
In Huambo Province, landmine clearance by the National Demining Institute continues. So far this year, a dozen landmines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance have been cleared and destroyed (All Africa).
The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to impact northern Uganda a decade after the group was forced out of the country. Over 85 hand grenades have been discovered in hidden caches and authorities have called on residents to report any suspicious items they might find (All Africa).
Nigeria & Cameroon
An operation launched against Boko Haram led to the arrests of over 300 rebels and the liberation of 2,000 hostages. The operation destroyed Boko Haram infrastructure, but without some costs. At least six Cameroonian soldiers were injured by a landmine (Voice of America). Following the operation, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo visited northeastern Nigeria to observe the progress. Obasanjo said that the local governor intends to return all internally displaced people to their homes by the end of the year and the government will provide returnees with livestock. Obasanjo also said of the region, “Fortunately, there are no land mines in the fields,” so returnees will be able to farm their lands (Voice of America). Obasanjo’s words proved be wrong as landmines killed five farmers in Yobe state and injured nine others as they were clearing their fields for planting. The blasts occurred less than two weeks after the farmers had returned to their homes (Y Naija). In response to the blast, the Nigerian military spokesperson warned the general public that Boko Haram had mined the farm fields, cutting short Mr. Obasanjo’s message of hope (All Africa).
The trial of four former employees of the National Demining Institute began in Maputo. Over the course of two years beginning in 2009, the employees, all members of the Administration and Finance Department, defrauded the government of about 250,000 meticais (~US $5,000) by issuing airline tickets to their family members (All Africa).
Three members of the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), a paramilitary group affiliated with the national army, were killed and several others injured by a landmine at a checkpoint in South Kordofan state. Fighting in South Kordofan between the government and rebels has intensified recently (Radio Tamazuj).
In Darfur, members of a UN Security Council monitoring group reported the presence of RBK-500 cluster bombs at one of the government’s air bases. Sudan had previously declared that it did not possess any cluster munitions, but the group’s findings dispute that (Reuters).
Eight million anti-personnel landmines laid by the French during the colonial era have been cleared by the Algerian army. This report was made in conjunction with the observance of the International Day for Mine Action and Awareness (KUNA). At another observance event, focusing on the victims of anti-personnel mines, a lawyer working with Algerian civil society called for the amendment of the Mine Ban Treaty to hold the countries that laid the mines responsible for their clearance (Ennahar). This argument is often used by Egypt as an excuse to remain outside of the Treaty because a significant number of the landmines in Egypt were laid by Britain and Germany during World War II. However, the Mine Ban Treaty’s cooperation clause responds to this very issue.
The civil war in South Sudan that erupted in December 2013 has set back demining activities in the country. When South Sudan acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty after independence 2011, the government believed it would be landmine free by 2020 and while substantial mine clearance has continued throughout the conflict, the use of new mines and the restrictions on access to mine affected areas means that more time will be needed to finish the job (Shanghai Daily).
South Sudan’s war has been very dangerous for humanitarian workers. In Yei state, seven employees of the Danish Demining Group were ambushed on their way to the minefields that they were clearing. Two local employees were shot and killed during the ambush and the other five managed to escape. The killers remain at large. In response to the attack, Danish Demining Group has suspended all operations in Yei indefinitely (Copenhagen Post; Copenhagen Post).
Between 1975 and 2012, 831 people were killed and 1705 people injured by landmines in Morocco. These figures were released by Moroccan authorities. In addition to the human casualties, livestock and native species, like the fennec fox, have been killed (Moroccan Times).
As part of the local observance of the International Day of Mine Action and Mine Awareness, leaders in Western Sahara called for the removal of the Moroccan-built berm which divides the territory and includes millions of landmines. Awareness raising activities also took place and representatives from the Chahid Cherif center noted that 151 survivors of landmines were receiving assistance at the center (All Africa).
Derna Shura fighters are using landmines to fight against Islamic State militants in the eastern Libyan city (Libya Observer). In Benghazi, three Libyan soldiers were killed and eight others wounded by a landmine attributed to Islamic State (Arabs Today).
In Marka town, a landmine placed in the center of the town claimed one life and injured another when a car drove over the mine in the middle of the night (Goobjoog News, no link). In the central region of Galgaduud, three children found a piece of unexploded ordnance and started to play with it. All three were injured when the item exploded (Goobjoog News, no link).
Michael P. Moore
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
May 6, 2016
Bear with me, folks: this is going to be a long one. In March we have landmine-related stories from 15 countries and areas, with good and bad news to report. In the stories below, I report on over 150 landmine and ERW casualties, the deadliest month of the year so far. The positive news includes continued mine clearance in Angola and Algeria and Japan’s support for mine action in several countries. The glass is never more than half-full.
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights produces a biannual report on violations of the human rights of the Sahrawi people. In their report for the period July – December 2015, they noted one landmine injury in addition to multiple other violations (All Africa).
During March, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Western Sahara and observed the landmine clearance projects managed by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) (All Africa). During that visit, Ban referred to the “occupation” of Western Sahara by Morocco which led the Moroccan government to call for the expulsion of the UN mission in Western Sahara, including the UNMAS staff.
Also in March, Western Sahara registered its first landmine fatality of the year when a shepherd’s truck struck a probable anti-vehicle mine west of the berm, near Smara (Remove the Wall).
The government of Japan pledged US $2.1 million in support of UNMAS’s work in Kassala, Red Sea, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The donation will support clearance of 1.5 million square meters and risk education for 100,000 Sudanese (All Africa). At the same time, a rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), accused the government of Sudan of using cluster munitions in the ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains region, which includes South Kordofan (Sudan Tribune).
In North Darfur’s Tawila area, two UXO incidents were reported. In the first, two men were killed by a UXO blast as they were collecting firewood (Radio Dabanga). In the second incident, six gold miners were killed and three more injured when their vehicle struck a piece of UXO (Radio Dabanga).
Even though the country has been declared landmine free, Mozambique is still plagued by other explosive remnants of war so the national police are being educated on explosive ordnance disposal (Star Africa).
In addition to training Senegalese forces, the US Marines have been training Moroccan soldiers to build the demining capacity of the Moroccan army. Starting in 2007, the Moroccan military has cleared some 564 square kilometers of land, and the goal is for Morocco to be able to train its own forces on explosive ordnance disposal. In April, Morocco will launch a new effort to clear the landmines from the eastern side of the berm that divides Western Sahara into the Moroccan-controlled area and the Polisario-controlled area (Camp Lejeune Globe; Sahara Question).
The governments of Japan and Norway provided US $ 203,384 for landmine clearance in Malanje province. With the funds, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) will be able to clear 117,000 square meters (All Africa).
The National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH) has called on the population to report suspected minefields to the Commission. At the same time, CNIDAH’s representative announced plans for clearance of 3.1 million square meters of land in Cunene province and that over 546,000 square meters had been cleared in 2015 (Angola Press). In Lunda Norte province, the National Demining Institute (INAD) reported the clearance of 2.2 million square meters of land in 2015 (All Africa). As part of the national infrastructure plan, INAD has finished the clearance of the high voltage lines in Cabinda Province which was accompanied by some clearance activities to enable small scale cultivation (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603170842.html). In Zaire province, construction of electrical lines is pending the demining of some 189 kilometers of line (Angola Press). In Uige province, the Angola NGO, Terra Mae, cleared over 300 landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in March (Angola Press).
The uncertain financial support for mine action globally continues to have very real, local impacts. The HALO Trust, which has cleared over 51 million square meters and 65,000 mines and ERW in Bie Province since 1995 have shuttered their operations in that province. INAD and the Angolan army will be responsible for surveying and clearing the 300 suspected hazardous areas that remain in the province (Rede Angola).
Egypt’s northwestern deserts are polluted with mines leftover from the World War II battles around El Alamein and the modern city of Matrouh. The European Union supports a large demining project there which is in its third year. Sahar Nasr, the Minister of International Cooperation, during a visit to the program called on the EU to extend the project (All Africa; State Information Service; El Balad).
Even though the minefields of El Alamein are more famous, two landmine incidents in Sinai and one on the Red Sea coast highlighted the fact that Egypt’s landmine contamination is more widespread. Five soldiers were killed and seven more injured by a landmine near the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada (Egyptian Streets). In Sinai, seven police were killed and nine injured in one landmine incident and one Bedouin was killed and another injured in a second incident (Al Bawaba; Al Bawaba). The Red Sea mine likely dates to World War II and the first Sinai mine is from the conflicts with Israel in the 1950s and 1970s. The Bedouins were victims of a recently laid mine that detonated when struck by their tractor.
Algerian counter-terrorism forces destroyed four bunkers and 16 anti-personnel landmines in Boumerdes (Ennahar). In ongoing operations, the Algerian army cleared almost five thousand landmines from the borders that date back to the French colonial period. Through February 2016, Algeria has destroyed 831,017 landmines (Ennahar).
The anti-poaching unit operating near Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls park arrested 300 poachers in 2015 and recovered 10 kilograms of elephant ivory from three dealers. In the process, the unit also found a cache of 50 landmines leftover from the liberation war in the Zambezi National Park and called the Zimbabwe army to destroy them (Radio VOP).
Nigeria & Cameroon
Vigilantes, operating under the more benign name of “civilian self-defense groups,” have been important actors in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon. However, these vigilantes lack the necessary equipment – they have appealed for bicycles to assist in their operations – and have been victims of the very landmines and explosives they are trying to find. In five days, seven landmine blasts killed 34 people and injured 40 more. The Cameroonian army has received technical advice and equipment from the US government and trainers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the French army are educating Cameroon soldiers on landmine and explosive clearance (Voice of America; African Press Organization). Cameroon’s soldiers have also been landmine victims with one killed and four more injured in two separate blasts in Amchide-Gance and Zamga (Simon Ateba). The explosions and other war-related injuries have stretched Cameroon’s health system beyond its capacity (All Africa).
In Nigeria, 15 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram landmines in Nussa village in Borno state (Channels TV). On the road from Chul to Huyum, also in Borno, three Nigerian vigilantes were killed and seven injured by a landmine (Press TV). In addition to soldiers and vigilantes, hunters from Nigeria’s indigenous groups have also sought to join the fight against Boko Haram. Acknowledging the landmine risks, these hunters have “super natural powers” which they will use “to assist the military in crushing Boko Haram” in addition to their extensive knowledge of the Sambisa forest which Boko Haram is using as a refuge (TVC News). Two Boko Haram members were killed by their own landmine as they fled from Nigerian soldiers in Kumala area of Borno (All Africa http://allafrica.com/stories/201603180337.html).
The US government provided 24 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) to the Nigerian army to assist with the fight against Boko Haram. However, most of the vehicles require maintenance and servicing before they can be used and have been referred to as “carcasses.” The Nigerian army has been able to deploy some mine-clearance machines, but the available machines are insufficient for the vast area of the Sambisa forest (All Africa).
One soldier was injured by a landmine in the Kasserine region during a counter-terrorism operation (All Africa).
Under the auspices of the State Department’s Humanitarian Mine Action program, a US Marine contingent led a six week training session for Senegalese soldiers in demining and explosive ordnance disposal. Other partners in the training program include the Vermont National Guard and the Austrian Armed Forces (Defence Web). In addition to the national army, Handicap International is clearing landmines in Senegal’s Casamance region. In 2016, HI plans to clear 55,000 square meters, the equivalent of 8 football pitches (Relief Web). HI’s partner, the Senegalese Association of Mine Victims (ASVM) is leading a mine risk education campaign in Casamance with survivors directly participating. In the current campaign, ASVM hopes to reach 60 schools and 65 villages (Relief Web).
The European Union and UNMAS donated bomb disposal equipment to the Somali Police force which will outfit five bomb squad units that will also be trained (Relief Web). A line of landmines placed in the center of Bardhere town in southern Somalia killed two people and injured several others when an Ethiopian army vehicle drove over them. In the aftermath of the blast, the Ethiopian soldiers fired indiscriminately injuring some bystanders (Goobjoog News). In Bakol, three Al Shabaab members were arrested and charged with planting landmines (News Ghana).
Six peacekeepers with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured at the start of the month when their vehicle struck a landmine on the Aguelhok – Tessalit road (MINUSMA). Three days later an unknown number of casualties occurred when another MINUSMA vehicle struck a landmine near Kidal (Desert Media). At the end of the month, two Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine on the Mopti – Timbuktu road (Desert Media).
The government of Japan contributed US $2.3 million to UNMAS for mine action in South Sudan. Over 110 million square meters of land in South Sudan is contaminated by landmines and ERW affected almost eight million people. New mine usage during the current civil war compounds the problem (Modern Ghana).
Michael P. Moore
April 18, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
I think it’s the little touches in landmine stories that really get to me. In this month’s news, the fact that the reporter felt the need to confirm that when two herders were killed by a piece of unexploded ordnance, “their animals did not survive the explosion either.” In Morocco the fact that a young man’s “kicking” of a landmine set it off, provides a visual. Or in Zimbabwe, a young survivor and his girlfriend cannot marry because he lacks the money to pay for the wedding. These small flourishes show the humanity and the human tragedy of landmines.
In response to the Boko Haram insurgency, several vigilante groups emerged from the local populations in northeastern Nigeria to support the Nigerian army in the campaign against the Islamist group. In February, five members of the one vigilante group, euphemistically called the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), were killed and another four injured when their truck struck a landmine left by Boko Haram (All Africa). Four Nigerian soldiers were also injured in a separate incident (All Africa). Cameroonian soldiers are also active against Boko Haram and while Cameroon’s forces have been clearing mined roads and dismantling suspected bomb-making facilities, one Cameroonian soldier was killed and another eight injured when their truck struck a mine on patrol in Nigeria (All Africa).
In 2015 the HALO Trust cleared and destroyed more than 4,000 mines and 25,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the southern town of Cuito Cuanavale (All Africa). In Bie Province, landmine clearance is preparing some 250 hectares of land for industrial development and economic diversification (All Africa). In Cuando Cubango, the deputy governor witnessed the destruction of several explosive devices and noted how demining enables agricultural expansion and market access (All Africa).
Two members of the Islamist group, Ansar Dine, were killed when they drove over a landmine planted by other members of the group. The vehicle was headed towards Kidal and had four pieces of ordnance in the back which might have contributed to the deaths of the occupants (Mali Web). In northeastern Mali, Malian soldiers were victims of a landmine and firearms attack which killed four – it is not clear from the report how many casualties are attributable to either the mine or the guns (The Chronicle). In Mopti in central Mali, three Malian soldiers were killed and two more wounded by a landmine (BBC). Near Gao, another Islamist was killed by the mine he was trying to plant with the intention of attacking a Malian army convoy (Mali Actu).
Five people were injured, one seriously, when a Moroccan man kicked a landmine in the southern city of Laayoune (Morocco World News).
The Gulu Landmine Survivors Association (GLSA) in Northern Uganda has petitioned the government for victim assistance support. Most survivors are living in poverty and prosthetics are prohibitively expensive. Monica Pilloy, the chair of the GLSA, notes that Ugandan soldiers are entitled to pensions and compensatyion for injuries, but civilian victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army, despite the international attention and support for reconstruction, have received little (Uganda Radio Network).
In western Kasese district, the Kayondo Landmine Survivors Association called on the government for amendments to national legislation to reflect the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Uganda has ratified (Crooze).
One child was killed and eight others injured when they played with a piece of unexploded ordnance in Kampala. The football pitch where the boys were playing is opposite an old military barracks (News 24).
The 426 kilometer stretch of Zimbabwe’s northwestern border with Mozambique, from Mukumbura to Rwenya, is labelled as “minefield # 2.” 130 kilometers have been cleared, removing over 162,000 anti-personnel landmines. The balance remains to be cleared with the HALO Trust and Zimbabwe’s National Mine Clearance Squadron splitting the duties (Zimbabwe Nation). The presence of the landmines means that the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border hasn’t been formally fixed and efforts by the African Union Border Commission have been stymied (The Chronicle). The HALO Trust’s work is supported, in part, but the Japanese government and during a visit to the minefield, the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe called for more awareness of the landmine problem in Zimbabwe and more support from the donor community. Literally putting his money where his mouth is, the ambassador also announced an additional US $635,281 for the project (News Day). The Zimbabwean parliament has recognized that demining is underfunded and the committee responsible for defense activities has called for additional funds. With only US $100,000 provided by the government, some members of parliament have suggested taking up a collection among themselves to support the work (News Day).
“Minefield # 1” is near Victoria Falls in the northeast of the country and the National Mine Clearance Squadron had sole responsibility for its clearance. Declared clear in 2015, over 26 thousand mines were destroyed (Harare 24). The third major minefield (not sure if it is formally known as “Minefield # 3”) is along the southern border, near Sango Border Post, where Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa share a border. One area of the minefield, Gwaivhi community, is a place “where you can hardly find a family that has not been affected in one way or the other by the landmines. Some families lost their members while others have been maimed. Other families lost their livestock. The area is not suitable for human habitation and therefore has no settlements but those on the periphery of the area have been affected.” Zimbabwe army engineers are clearing the minefield and in 2015 the Defence Minister provided 15 artificial limbs to survivors from the community (Sunday News).
The US Army’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) sent two US Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) trainers and a corpsman to work with and train Tanzanian soldiers on EOD techniques as part of the regional command’s capacity building program (AFRICOM).
A South African man was seriously injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance that he had somehow acquired from an army training ground near his home. The range is well marked and fenced, but still poses a danger to local residents (Defence Web).
The Libyan army has liberated areas of Benghazi and has warned local residents about the possibility of landmines and other explosive devices. The army’s engineering teams were sweeping the Laithi neighborhood and asked residents to accompany engineers in order to access homes and secure personal possessions (Al Wasat). The dangers from ERW were made clear when one soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Benghazi, the second such incident in less than a week (Arabs Today).
Two herders were killed along with five of their camels by a piece of unexploded ordnance in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra (Radio Dabanga).
To combat landmines and ERW elsewhere in Sudan, the government of Italy donated 250,000 euros to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) program in Sudan. the funds will be used to clear 900,000 square meters in Kassala state and provide mine risk education to 5,000 people (United Nations).
Burundi / Rwanda
Both Burundi and Rwanda have declared themselves to be anti-personnel landmine free after completing clearance. Neither army should have these weapons in their arsenal, but allegations that surfaced this month should raise questions about their use. Some Burundian rebels were interviewed by United Nations monitors in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rebels claimed that they had been trained in the use of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines by Rwandan army regulars to be able to overthrow the government of Pierre Nkurunziza, the Burundian president who recently ran for a third term in violation of the constitution (Voice of America).
In Somaliland, a young man who overcame the loss of both arms and his sight to a landmine explosion to attend college and complete his degree has resorted to asking for charity in a newspaper article (Somaliland Informer).
Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), which has been conducting mine risk education programs in Western Sahara for many years, has recently commenced landmine clearance activities in the region. With two teams now working in the country, NPA is hoping to contribute to a mine-free Western Sahara (NPA).
Two archaeologists were killed and third wounded at the Tel al-Dafna site near the Suez canal. The area had been subject to extensive landmine use in the Egypt-Israel wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973 and the archaeologists apparently set off a mine during their excavations (Mada Masr).
Michael P. Moore
March 28, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
Last week, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines published its annual Landmine Monitor report, the 16th annual edition, which details the state of mine action around the world (The Monitor). One of the key findings of the report was the fact that landmine casualties in 2013 had dropped to their lowest ever recorded level: 3,308 persons killed or injured by landmines. This represented a drop of 25% in casualties from 2012 and roughly a third of the number of casualties recorded in 1999 when two people were killed or injured by landmines every hour of every day. That good news should be tempered by the constant reminders against complacency. In 2013, only 185 square kilometers were cleared of landmines (compared to 200 square kilometers in 2012) and the funding available for mine action declined by more than 10% from the record high funding of US $497 million in 2012.
In Africa, new use of landmines was reported in Libya and Tunisia; in both countries rebel groups or non-state actors were responsible. Across the continent, 647 persons were killed or injured by landmines in 2013 compared to 676 casualties in 2013, a decline of only 4% compared to the global drop of 25%. Also, ten countries (Algeria, Angola the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tunisia and Uganda) all saw their landmine casualties increase from the previous year (The Monitor; The Monitor). Especially tragic is the increase in casualties in Mozambique which is likely to be declared landmine-free in a few months’ time and the alarming rise in Tunisia where the 28 casualties is almost triple the number recorded in the previous two decades and the first confirmed landmine casualties since 2002 (The Monitor).
Michael P. Moore
December 9, 2014
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org