Thanks to the Ottawa Treaty, the number of anti-personnel mines laid around the world since 1997 is a tiny fraction of the number laid before the treaty. Most of the devices removed by demining organizations today were laid decades ago, yet in both Pakistan’s South Waziristan district and the Syrian city of Raqqa it is modern mines that threaten civilians and refugees. More than twenty years after the adoption of a global treaty to ban the production, use, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines, some parties continue to produce and employ them.
In Waziristan, mines were laid by government forces as part of a military operation in 2009. As civilians have subsequently returned to their homes in the region, at least 77 people have been injured or killed by landmines or improvised explosives. Locals complain that a removal team promised by the military has never shown up, and that soldiers threaten villagers to prevent them complaining about the landmine threat on social media.
In Syria, nearly 150 children have been killed or injured by improvised explosives in Raqqa since the Islamic State was pushed out of the city in October. These children are among over 490 victims of traps and explosives left behind by Islamic State before its retreat out of the city.
Returning residents and refugees are scared to enter their abandoned homes, which may or may not have been rigged with explosives. Demands for professional inspections far outstrip the city’s ability to provide them, and some young men, desperate for money, are offering to clear homes at the risk of their own lives.
Neither Pakistan nor Syria are signatories of the Ottawa Treaty.
Picture: Alessandro Rota (The Observer)