MAG’s technical expert visits Ajdabiya, safely removes remains of BM-21 rockets from three houses
NOTICE: Andy Gleeson, MAG’s EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and landmine clearance remains in Benghazi and is available for interview. He can give a technical perspective on the potential humanitarian impact that abandoned weapons, UXO, landmines and weapons looted from unsecure stores could have.
Please contact Kate Wiggans 0161 238 5445 / 07979 343969 / firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a representative in Libya who would like contact Andy.
Friday 15 April: During a mission to scope contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO) to residential areas in Ajdabiya, MAG’s weapons and EOD expert found, and removed, UXO from inside three homes.
Andy Gleeson, MAG’s senior technical expert who has been in Libya since 4 April, found remnants of a BM-21 rocket embedded in the wall of a house.
“People here are still afraid of being hurt or killed, even though the shelling has stopped, and they’ve got reason to be. They don’t know what is dangerous and what is not, and that is a really worrying situation. There was an old man living in one of the houses I went to,” Andy said.
In another two homes he found more remnants of the same type of weapon.
These rockets are more than two metres long and are fired from multiple-rocket launchers attached to the back of large trucks. In the last few weeks hundreds of them will have been used during the intense battle for control of Ajdabiya, which is now in the hands of forces opposed to Colonel Gaddafi’s rule.
MAG has established a working relationship with the Interim National Transitional Council and is working with other partner agencies in country, and the UN, to mitigate the risks of UXO and other deadly remnants of conflict to civilians in Libya.
A member of Handicap International, co-ordinating emergency Mine Risk Education (MRE) in Libya to teach people about the threat from UXO, joined MAG on the visit to Ajdabiya.
“When we arrived in Ajdabiya I spoke to members of the local council who told me that some residents were concerned about items in their houses,” Andy said.
“The local leaders took me to the houses in question. It is difficult to tell whether or not the items are dangerous if you don’t have the training, so it was good we were there to provide them expert advice. As it turned out they were just the motors from the rockets, so they didn’t contain any explosives meaning we could remove them by hand.
“This just shows that in situations like this when UXO, doesn’t discriminate between its victims, is so widespread fear of the unknown risk can stop people returning home just as effectively as active conflict. When you’ve got a mixture of a lot of lethal items lying around, and a population who are wholly unaware of the risks, that is a huge concern for us,” said Andy.
Using its technical capacity on the ground in Libya MAG is also supporting the United Nations Mine Action Service’s (UNMAS) response to the emergency.
For more information on MAG’s work, our emergency response in Libya, or to request an interview, please contact Kate Wiggans, Press and Communications Officer in the UK on + (0) 161 238 5445 / + (0) 7939 343969 / email@example.com.
To see more pictures from Andy’s assessment mission to Ajdabiya please visit our Flikr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mag-photos/
Alternatively, please visit our website www.maginternational.org