Libya

Mine clearers begin work in Libya

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18.04.2011: DanChurchAid/ACT Alliance is ready to clear the life-threatening remains of the war in Libya. Mine clearance specialists expect to start working next week

”The sooner we start working, the more human lives we can save”.

This is the message from the leader of DanChurchAid’s mine clearance operation, Sam Christensen, who is pleased that it is now possible for the mine clearance teams to enter Libya.

"We can prevent curious children and unsuspecting adults from encountering life-threatening unexploded ammunition”, he adds. The latest reports from the UN show that the problem with the most dangerous remains of the war is a very real and extensive problem.

Children especially in danger

Especially children are in danger because they are curious and they may start playing in abandoned tanks which have been bombed by NATO. We have already received reports about two children who have been injured because of unexploded ammunition.

But also adults could get near the dangerous explosives:

”We have seen examples of “ammunition tourism” where people go to the destroyed depots or tanks. Some of them gather the ammunition and bring it to their homes”, Sam Christensen explains. He has also seen examples of this after the conflicts in Iraq and Kosovo:

”People have no idea of what a hand-grenade is used for, for instance, and some get the idea of placing it on a shelf like some kind of a souvenir”.

Mine clearers enter

Until now, the UN and thus also the mine clearers of DanChurchAid have not been able to enter Libya for safety reasons. However, now, the National Council of Libya has given the go-ahead for UN to operate in the country. If everything goes as planned the organization can enter Benghazi in the eastern part of the country this Friday.

Here, the first task is to establish a coordination centre where professional mine clearance experts must get an overview of how the unexploded grenades, missiles and bullets for handguns are located and how many there are.

DanChurchAid’s specialists participate in the operation and are currently in the process of purchasing explosives for destruction of the dangerous ammunition.

Weapons must not get into the hands of the wrong people

The effort against the remains of the war is also an effort to anticipate a potential terror threat against western countries. Many of the weapon types lying around in destroyed weapons depots in Libya are the same types which were used for terror actions in Europe. There have been reports of an open depot with up to 2,000 earth-to-air missiles.

”These weapons must not get into the hands of the wrong people. If they are not secured or destroyed and they reach Europe, they would pose a threat against the west”, Sam Christensen concludes.

By Tobias Moe