My more astute readers will have noticed the distinct lack of traffic and content on this site. I apologize: things in my other worlds have gotten busier than I would have liked and I will try to get caught up again. I have posted a couple of items on the Red Mercury side of things, one on the report of a man trying to bring Red Mercury to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s offices in Atlanta (Campaign against Red Mercury) and the other about the people who keep trying to get me to buy the stuff (Campaign against Red Mercury). Also during this period I received a reminder that I have been writing this blog for six years, but I feel the urgency of the issue as sharply as I did when I first began. Without further ado or delay, the Quarter in Mines:
The Gambia is not considered a mine-affected country, but it is located immediately next to Senegal’s Casamance region which is a recognized mine-affected region and during Yahya Jammeh’s rule, The Gambia served as a refuge for rebels involved in the Casamance conflict. Since Jammeh departed The Gambia earlier this year, the space for free media has opened up and two landmine incidents have been reported which suggest the possibility of others which we simply didn’t hear about during Jammeh’s dictatorship. In the first incident, a farmer and his two sons were returning from collecting firewood when their donkey cart struck a mine on a road leading to the Casamance. All three were killed (All Africa). The second incident, which, like the first occurred in the Foni region, had no reported casualties, but seemed to spark a significant intelligence investigation (Freedom Newspaper).
Nigeria’s Army Chief of Staff acknowledged that landmine clearance of the Sambisa Forest, which had been used as a base by the Boko Haram rebels, had yet to begin in any meaningful manner. He called for donations of equipment and invited the international demining operators to support a clearance program (All Africa). In partial response, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) deployed an assessment team to Nigeria to evaluate the situation (All Africa). The threat from improvised and artisanal mines in Sambisa Forest is significant. At a crossroads, four mines were found and cleared (All Africa). In another incident, three civilian loggers were killed by a mine in the roadway when their truck struck the mine (National Daily).
In the south of the country, in the regions affected by the Biafra War in the 1960s, landmine survivors called upon the government for greater assistance and caches of mines and other abandoned ordnance are still being found (The Guardian).
In the good news column of the ledger, two regions, West Darfur’s Foro Baranga area and the Red Sea State were declared free of landmines (All Africa; All Africa). Clearance in the Red Sea State received substantial support from the government of Italy. Other eastern states in Sudan are expected to be cleared by the end of the year, thanks in part to continuing support from Italy, but the mine action program in Sudan remains woefully underfunded with less than 20% of the funds sought received (Italian mission to the UN). In somewhat surprising news – due to continuing sanctions on Sudan – the US government pledged US $1.5 million in support for mine action in Sudan during a donors conference (Journal du Cameroun).
In Darfur, UXO is the more significant problem. A teenager was killed by a suspected grenade when one of the two camels he was herding kicked the explosive (All Africa). While on patrol, ten peacekeepers from the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were injured when their truck struck an explosive remnant of war (ERW) (Sudan Tribune). In a third incident a herder was killed and another injured by a piece of ERW. The man killed was buried on the site of the blast so severe was the damage and the man injured suffered loss of his legs (Radio Dabanga).
In the contested region of Abyei, the Ethiopian Demining Platoon assigned to the peacekeeping force there destroyed several small arms and hundreds of pieces of ammunition and explosives as part of ongoing efforts there (Sudan Tribune).
The government of Norway continues to support landmine clearance in Angola’s northern Malanje province. A new grant of US $470,000 to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) will help clear the village of Camalanga (Relief Web). NPA’s partner APOPO used rats to detect landmines in the village of Camatende, and the fields have been returned to productive use (Relief Web). NPA is also working to clear the village of Luquembo and have discovered five anti-personnel landmines already (Angola National Press).
In accordance with its recent report on landmine clearance to the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Angola is developing a final request for extension of it Article 5 demining obligations. At current pace, the clearance will take at least another 25 years, but Angola has pledged to meet the global goal of clearance by 2025. To develop the request, Angola’s mine action authority hosted a national conference on demining and included donors, mine clearance organizations and other government agencies. During the conference, the Angolan government announced that US $200 million would be needed in international assistance to achieve a mine-free Angola by 2025 (New York Times, All Africa, Relief Web).
In addition to the problems facing the country from policital violence and civil conflict, the government of South Sudan also needs to complete the demarcation of its southern border with Uganda. Part of that process will include survey and landmine clearance (All Africa). To support mine clearance in South Sudan, several countries, including Cambodia, continue to send specialized peacekeeping forces (Khmer Times).
While support for mine survey and clearance is forthcoming, support for landmine survivors is very limited. In the capitol, Juba, survivors can obtain prosthetics from the Physical Rehabilitation Reference Centre but orthopedic services are limited elsewhere in the country. With a quarter million ERW found and cleared so far in 2017, the threat from mines to the population is pervasive. Survivors from across the country have to travel to Juba and find the resources to support themselves for up to two weeks to have a prosthetic built and fitted for them (All Africa).
The heavily mine affected province of Matrouh – near the site of the World War II battle of El Alamein – reported zero landmine casualties in 2016, a stunning achievement made possible by the efforts of local activists and landmine survivors to raise awareness about landmines. Mine clearance and survivor support remain a challenge despite the efforts of the United Nations Development Programme, the government of Egypt and the limited number of donors, including Kuwait, which support clearance of Egypt’s northwestern deserts (Mada Masr, Al Ahram). Of course, Egypt’s landmine problem is not limited to the ERW from World War II. Extensive minefields remain on the Sinai Peninsula from the 1950s and 1960s conflicts with Israel. One Egyptian soldier was killed and three others injured when their vehicle struck a mine on Sinai, a mine that might be a decades old relic or the result of recent conflict with an Islamic State-linked group operating in Egypt (Al Bawaba).
Two children were killed by a landmine in the Middle Shabelle region when their auto rickshaw struck the explosive. Two other mines were found nearby (Xinhua Net). In the Lower Shabelle region, a minibus struck a mine killing at least 19 people and injuring others (Al Jazeera). And in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, two people were killed by a mine in the Galgala mountain area (All Africa). All three incidents were blamed on the Al Shabaab rebels without confirmation from the rebels themselves.
Three people affiliated with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali were injured when their vehicle hit a mine in the northern Kidal region. A newly announced Islamist group, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, claimed responsibility for the blast (Stars and Stripes).
Until the outbreak of the Boko Haram rebellion and its spread in the aftermath of efforts by the government of Nigeria to eliminate the threat, Cameroon had not been considered a landmine-affected country. That has now clearly changed. The US government has donated mine-clearing equipment to Cameroon to address the threat (Journal du Cameroun) and multiple incidents confirm the threat. Three Cameroon soldiers were killed and at least five others injured in two separate landmine blasts (Anadolu Agency, Cameroon Concord) and six civilians were injured by a mine placed on a busy road (Journal du Cameroon). During a visit to a military hospital, Cameroon’s Defense Minister was able to meet with 21 soldiers who had been injured by landmines (Journal de Cameroun).
In the fighting for the cities of Sirte and Benghazi, Islamist rebels made extensive use of landmines and booby traps. Sirte has been liberated by the Libyan army under General Haftar and the fighting in Benghazi intensified during the quarter. The Danish Demining Group has received funding from the government of Great Britain to support landmine clearance and mine risk education in the country (Libya Observer).
In Sirte, the main roads into the city from the east and west have been re-opened following landmine clearance (Libya Observer). Within the city, mine clearance continued, but the risks remain. Two employees of the water utility were killed by a mine near a water storage tank (Libya Herald).
In Benghazi, at least 24 people, soldiers and civilians alike, were killed in the “Tree Street” district of the city in February and March, including a father and his son who were trying to return to their farm (Libya Herald). A mine planted at the former internal security building killed one soldier and injured two others (Libya Herald). In total, the Libyan National Army reported clearing 3,800 landmines from the center of Benghazi during its efforts to defeat the Islamist forces there (Xinhua Net).
In addition to the civilians and soldiers killed and wounded, two Libya National Army officers, a naval commander and a senior Special Forces officer were killed in separate landmine explosions (Libya Herald).
In the northern Mijek region, a shepherd was killed by a landmine after apparently hitting the explosive with a rock. The national mine action center had declared that part of the country landmine-free, but some of the desert regions are still contaminated as evidenced by this recent tragedy (Zouerate Media).
Over the course of the next 15 months, the Polisario Front, in fulfillment of its Deed of Commitment with Geneva Call, will destroy all stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines. Already the Front has destroyed 13,000 mines, but thousands remain in the stockpile (Geneva Call).
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working with the Ethiopian National Defence Forces to increase the capacity of Ethiopia’s military in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). This is part of a regional program to increase landmine clearance and EOD capacity in Africa and ICRC has supported similar work in Zimbabwe (International Committee of the Red Cross).
A Tunisian soldier died from injuries sustained in a landmine blast on Mount Ouergha on the border with Algeria. The mountain ranges have been used as an operating base by Islamist rebels and the deceased soldier was honored with the title, “Martyr of the nation,” after his death (Al Bawaba). A few days later a shepherdess was also killed by a landmine on a nearby mountain (News 24).
During the Intersessional Meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, Algeria made the formal announcement that the nation had completed its landmine clearance obligations. One million mines in 93 separate hazardous areas have been cleared and 120 million square miles have been made available for productive use (Relief Web).
In 2012 Uganda declared itself landmine-free but over the last several years 149 unexploded and abandoned explosives have been discovered in the region. Most of the devices have been discovered by farmers in their fields, but there is no clear reporting mechanism to alert authorities about these explosives. The Gulu Amuru Landmine Survivors Association, composed of some 800 survivors injured by mines laid by the Lord’s Resistance Army, have called on the government of Uganda to take action to address the problem (PML Daily).
After declaring itself landmine-free in 2015, Mozambique discovered additional, previously unknown minefields. In partnership with Norwegian People’s Aid Mozambique has now cleared the minefields removing over 100 antipersonnel landmines (Norwegian People’s Aid).
Michael P. Moore
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
July 25, 2017
Below we will talk about Algeria’s landmine clearance, but I would like to compare it to Mozambique’s achievement of a landmine-free country. Mozambique was greatly aided by the efforts of multiple commercial and humanitarian demining organizations and when Mozambique detonated its last mine, board members were invited and press releases issued. When Algeria cleared its last mined, no announcement was made for a couple of months, despite the fact that Algeria had three times as many mines as Mozambique. Algeria’s deminers, members of police and army engineering units, toiled away for years on what must have seemed like an impossible task, but they did it. Those anonymous souls achieved something special and deserve as much recognition and respect as Mozambique’s deminers.
As we had mentioned in last month’s news round-up, Algeria has completed its demining obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. With contamination from World War II, the liberation war against France and a civil war in the 1990s, Algeria had over a million mines across 120 million square meters. The densest minefields were to be found along the borders and had been laid by the French as a “cordon sanitaire” in an attempt to prevent supply and support to the liberation fighters in the 1950s and 1960s. Mine clearance took place in two phases, the first in the two and a half decades after liberation and the second after 2004 with the last mine cleared on November 30, 2016. Algeria is the second North African country after Tunisia to complete demining with the rest of North Africa, Morocco, Libya and Egypt choosing to remain outside of the Mine Ban Treaty. The formal announcement of Algeria’s clearance was made at the annual meeting of Mine Action Program Managers in Geneva and recognized by the President of the Convention (Defence Web).
A Cameroonian soldier was killed while on duty in Nigeria’s Borno state by a suspected landmine attributed to Boko Haram. The soldier was riding in a vehicle which struck the mine (Cameroon Concord). A few days later, another Cameroonian military vehicle struck a mine in northeastern Cameroon killing four soldiers and injuring others. The second mine was also attributed to Boko Haram which has been accused of laying mines throughout the Lake Chad region to thwart attempts by the joint forces of five countries – Nigeria, Niger, Char, Cameroon and Benin – to combat the group (Anadolu Agency).
2017 will see the 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and while some will celebrate this turning point in the second World War, for many Egyptians in the Northwest Desert, it will be a grim reminder of the continuing threat of landmines laid during that battle. To date some 8,000 people have been killed or injured by World War II landmines and the demining process has been slow (ITV).
In 2015 the HALO Trust expanded its activities in Somalia beyond the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland with some initial survey work. Now operating in southern Somalia, the HALO Trust is active along the Ethiopian-Somali border which was the site of battles in the Ogaden wars of the 1980s. This month, the Trust’s clearance teams found their first landmine in southern Somalia near a former military camp which had been the source of multiple accidents in the 2000s (Relief Web).
Despite the liberation of the western city of Sirte from Islamic State forces, civilians continue to be threatened by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Three children were injured by a piece of ammunition that was thrown onto a fire and father and two of his children were injured by a landmine outside of their house which had reportedly been used as an operations room by Islamic State (Libya Herald). In partial response, the Presidential Council, which is recognized by the United Nations as the formal governing body, has been called upon by the Libyan army to provide metal detectors and other demining gear to find and clear the mines left by IS (Libya Observer). Demining is a core element in the army’s six-point plan for ensuring the safe return of Sirte residents who had been displaced by the fighting. The city has been divided into neighborhoods and the army is sweeping them in turn before allowing residents back to their homes (Libya Observer).
In Derna, one child was killed and two others injured by a landmine attributed to IS and left near the GECOL building (Libya Observer).
An estimated 5 to 10 million landmines pollute the Western Sahara region. Laid by the Polisario Movement and the government of Morocco the mine have killed or injured more than 300 people and thousands of camels since the 1991 ceasefire. Polisario has handed over its minefield maps to the United Nations to assist with clearance while the Moroccan government maintains active minefields along the berm that divides the region (Mail and Guardian).
The United States ambassador to Angola, Helen La Lime, confirmed the US’s continuing support for a mine-free Angola during the first visit of a US ambassador to the eastern provinces of Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte (Relief Web).
Eighty children in the United Nations Protection of Civilian (PoC) site in Bentiu received mine-risk education from the Mission staff. The lessons are part of a broader program to inform school children about the dangers from landmines and other ERW, especially after three children were injured while playing with unspent ammunition (Relief Web).
Michael P. Moore
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
March 7, 2017
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
The release of the annual Landmine Monitor report included the shocking fact that landmine casualties had increased substantially in 2015 from recent years. Whereas 10 people were killed or injured by landmines each day in 2014, 18 people were killed or injured daily in 2015. On the African continent, Libya had the most casualties, with more casualties than all other African countries put together. I am hopeful that 2015 was an anomaly.
Five Nigerian soldiers were injured by a landmine during a patrol near Maiduguri, capitol of Borno state. Army official believe Boko Haram members planted the mine the previous night in expectation of the patrol (News 24).
Near the Chibok area of Borno state, a local militia patrol vehicle struck a landmine killing two militia members and wounding two others. Boko Haram members followed up on the blast with gunfire (Naij).
Despite the violence in South Sudan that erupted when the President, Salva Kiir, ousted his Vice President, Riek Machar, no evidence has been found of new landmine use in the country according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). In this blog we have documented multiple accusations of new use, but cannot confirm those accusations.
The violence has not prevented UNMAS and its partners from continuing to map and clear landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). So far, 750 hazardous areas have been identified and UNMAS prioritizes clearance and assessment of schools and humanitarian access points. Much of the country remains to be surveyed – the violence has made Jonglei and Upper Nile states inaccessible.
UNMAS maintains the South Sudan Mine Action hotline (+211 92 000 1055) and encourages all South Sudanese to use the hotline to report suspicious items (All Africa).
The United Nations Security Council, in its re-authorization of the peacekeeping force in the disputed territory of Abyei, expressed concern about the continuing presence and threat from landmines and ERW which prevent the return of displaced persons (All Africa).
In Sudan’s South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern States, the Japanese NGO, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan), is conducting mine risk education work. These states are some of the most mine-affected in the country and the Japanese ambassador to Sudan led a delegation that included the State Minister of Defense, the Ambassadors from Italy and Sweden, and the US Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires (All Africa).
Sudan’s Foreign Minister repeated the government’s denial of possession or use of cluster munitions, claiming that international NGOs are making accusations for fundraising purposes. The minister also claimed that there was peace in Darfur (Morocco World News).
Conflict Armament Research published a report on weapons smuggling and trade in North Africa and the Sahel. The report says that despite efforts by the United States and Europe to prevent the proliferation of small arms from Libya after Gaddhafi’s fall, many factions in the region possess anti-tank landmines looted from Libyan stockpiles (All Africa).
In Germany, an eleven year-old girl from the Libyan town of Sirte continues her recovery from a landmine blast that also killed most of her family. Yaqeen Al-Hajali endured 17 hours of surgery in Libya, a medical evacuation to Tunisia and then onward evacuation to Germany. No word on Yaqeen’s brother and sister who also survived the blast (Libya Observer).
In Sirte, two members of the engineering brigade were killed and two more injured by a landmine attributed to the Islamic State (Al Wasat).
In Benghazi’s Al-Gawarsha neighborhood, a soldier in Khalifa Haftar’s army was killed by a landmine as Haftar’s army closed in on an Islamic State stronghold near the European Hospital (Libya Observer). A second soldier was killed by another landmine in the same area a few days later (Al Wasat). A few days later, Haftar’s army announced the liberation of the Al-Gawarsha district. Once the army had captured the European Hospital, the Islamic State forces fled the neighborhood. During the final approaches, a field commander was killed by a mine (Libya Herald).
Five young men were killed when they discovered a suspected landmine on former battlefield dating to the period before the 1994 genocide. The men were grazing cattle and, upon discovery of the explosive, began to play with it causing the blast (New Times).
A 60 vehicle convoy of the French army struck a landmine claimed by a rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda. One soldier was killed and another wounded (The Local).
During a visit of the International Cooperation Minister, a new prosthetic center was opened in the town of Masra Matrouh. The center will support landmine survivors injured in the minefields of the World War II battlefield of El Alamein, which is nearby. In addition to the prosthetic center, the Minister delivered a variety of economic and social supports to survivors and their families including water access, small business kits, agricultural inputs and sewing machines. During the ceremonies, the British ambassador to Egypt also announced the handover of maps of the minefields laid by British and Allied forces during World War II (Because).
The interventions were critiqued by several in Egypt who hold the position that because Germany and Britain laid the landmines, they hold all of the responsibility for their clearance. According the head of the military engineering department, the British minefield maps handed over by the ambassador are “sketch maps” and most of the mines were buried randomly. The prosthetic center was also critiqued as many of the survivors suffered loss of vision and / or hearing and will not benefit from prosthetic limbs. Among the survivors, almost half (48%) suffered upper limb injuries which suggest that they might have been digging or farming at the time of their injury, not just walking through the mine-affected areas (Middle East Observer)
The International Cooperation Minister also met with the Swiss ambassador to Egypt to discuss support for landmine clearance (Daily News Egypt).
The Japanese ambassador to Angola confirmed his commitment to support landmine clearance projects in Angola during a visit to Japanese-funded development projects in Uige province (Relief Web).
Recent flooding in the Western Sahara region of Saguia El-Hamra have displaced many landmines laid by Moroccan forces. The displacement of mines by flooding can lead to additional injuries as areas that had previously been free of mines may be contaminated (Facebook).
A child was killed and two others injured by a landmine in Galkayo in the Puntland region (Puntland Mirror).
In central Somalia, police forces located and cleared several landmines from busy roadways. The mines were attributed to Al Shabaab and found on a road used for transport convoys (Goobjoog).
The US Embassy in Senegal reminded citizens of the presence of landmines in the Ziguinchor and Sedhiou areas of Senegal’s Casamance region. The notice said that landmine clearance efforts are reducing the threat, but caution must continue to be taken (Overseas Security Advisory Council).
Michael P. Moore
December 22, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org
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
As we close out another year, there are reminders of how far mine action has come and of how much is left to be done. We like to keep a “glass half-full” attitude, but admit some days that’s harder than others. However, there are lots of good bits of news this month from Mozambique, South Africa and Senegal and elsewhere.
Once more with feeling: Mozambique is landmine-free. Taking advantage of the annual Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Mozambique confirmed its September announcement that all known anti-personnel landmines have been cleared from the country. In addition 2015 was the first year in four decades in which not a single Mozambican was killed or injured by a landmine (All Africa). However, other unexploded ordnance does remain in Mozambique and only now are the final steps being taken to clear the ammunition dump in Maputo that erupted in 2007 killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more. APOPO, the Belgian charity that employs rats to detect landmines and other explosives is clearing the former dump and the government plans to turn the area into a park once all hazards have been removed (Treehugger).
Nigeria / Cameroon
We’re putting these two countries together as their current landmine issues arise from the concerted efforts against Boko Haram, an Islamist militia that is operating in the area where the borders of the countries come together. A Boko Haram landmine was blamed for the deaths of two Cameroonian soldiers in the northern region of that country (All Africa). In parts of northeastern Nigeria, landmines are threatening displaced persons who fled Boko Haram’s violence. According to sources, there have been “many” explosions as displaced persons return to their homes and try to plant crops. In response, the Nigerian army is clearing mines, but is focusing on “schools, [health] clinics and roads” which leaves farmers in danger (All Africa).
Somalia / Kenya
The government launched a national plan, the “Badbaado Plan,” to address the explosive remnants of war and landmine contamination in the country. The Plan will also help the country fulfill its clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty. Currently, a HALO Trust implemented program on the border with Ethiopia and supported by the Government of Japan and the United Nations Mine Action Service is being held up as the model program to build the Plan around (All Africa). The extent of contamination is great and due to the continuing conflict with Al Shabaab, is in constant flux. Three landmines were cleared from the market in Bulo Burde town (Mareeg). Of course, Al Shabaab members are also often victims of their own explosives and five Al Shabaab fighters were apparently killed in southwestern Somalia by a landmine they were planting (Puntland Post).
In Kenya’s Lamu East sub-county, a Kenyan soldier was killed and two others injured by a landmine blamed on Al Shabaab (Citizen TV).
Landmines were among the 395 explosives collected and destroyed from Uige by the National Demining Institute (All Africa). Another 200 explosive items were cleared by the newly-created national NGO, Terra Mae, from 121,000 square meters in Cunene Province (All Africa). In addition to the work of Terra Mae, the Angolan army cleared 341,000 square meters in Cunene Province in 2015. Three landmine incidents were reported – with no mention of how many casualties – and almost 2,000 people participated in mine risk awareness sessions (All Africa).
Three high profile visitors to Angola, US Under Secretary of State, Rose Gottemoeller, and professional climbers Alex Honnold and Stacy Bare, helped to highlight the continuing landmine problem in the country (All Africa; Discovery).
The annual meeting of mine action operators and stakeholders for Western Sahara was held at the UN mission in Tindouf. Participants discussed ways to combat the threat of landmines from the 2,700 kilometer berm in the face of limited funding (All Africa).
Much like in Mozambique above, a former munitions test site in the South African capitol Pretoria is to be re-developed. The site, home to as many as 9,000 squatters, was the site of a World War II test site and munitions dump. Mechem, the South African demining firm associate with the national army, took responsibility for the clearance of the site and started with a visual inspection. Mechem hired 20 individuals, provided them with training and then had them conduct a visual inspection of the site. Those same individuals will be trained on demining procedures and be part of the team that allows the site to become a housing development (Defence Web). The dangers from the estimated 10 tons of ordnance are well known; as recently as 2011 a father and his son were killed by a mortar detonated during a bonfire (All Africa).
CNN profiled the trainer of mine detection dogs in Sudan, Dr. Muiz Ali Taha, and gave a nice description of how the dogs work. Sudan’s mine contamination dates back to World War II and includes use in recent conflicts (CNN).
Geneva Call announced the destruction of the anti-personnel landmine stockpile held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). The SPLM-N signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment and has pledged not to use anti-personnel landmines in its conflict with the government of Sudan, currently raging in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. One issue that the article does not address is the origin of the SPLM-N’s mines as both Sudan and South Sudan have declared that all stockpiled mines have been destroyed (Geneva Call). It is possible that the SPLM-N’s stockpile is a remnant from long ago conflicts and as it was not in the control of the government, would not have been included in Sudan’s stockpile destruction. But if that is the case, are there other such stockpiles in the country needing to be destroyed?
In Darfur, two men were killed while trying to collect firewood when their pack animal triggered an explosive device near Jebel Marra (Radio Dabanga).
The Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan visited an UNMAS project site, south of the capitol Juba, where UNMAS is using support from the Japanese government to clear minefields and raise awareness of the dangers of explosive devices. Plans for the site, once clearance is complete, include agriculture and development (ReliefWeb).
Since the start of its program in November 2013, the HALO Trust has cleared 10,000 landmines from Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique. While progress is excellent, roughly one kilometer of border is cleared of mines every month, HALO’s demining team would need to be increased to 600 from its current workforce of 150 if the entire border is to be cleared by 2025 (HALO Trust).
Mines Advisory Group has launched a mine risk education program in the Gao region of northern Mali with the support of the UN peacekeeping mission (Mikado Radio). In addition, the Mission facilitated the training of over 30 Malian security personnel on explosive risk and emergency first aid (MINUSMA).
In 2015, Algerian authorities seized 123 landmines as part of the country’s ongoing efforts against terrorism (Global Post). In addition, the country is facing a large smuggling and trafficking problem and two mines were seized along with substantial amounts of cannabis (All Africa).
And to close out the year on some very good news, Handicap International has re-launched its landmine clearance program in Senegal’s Casamance region. Though the program is starting small, HI expects to clear enough land to allow 60,000 Casamancais to live free of the fear of landmines (Handicap International).
Michael P. Moore
January 28, 2016
Moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org