can trace landmines as far back as the American Civil War. Landmine-like
containers were called "land torpedos" and "infernal devices". But
mines as we know them today were actually developed during World War Two.
They were placed alongside their bigger cousin, the anti-tank landmine;
since these big guys were so easy to dig up and steal, anti-personnel landmines
had to be laid to keep the front lines secure.
Since then, landmines have piled up in huge proportions. Dozens of countries
have started using them as offensive weapons. Many minefields are uncharted,
leaving countrysides with any hope of redemption being very expensive,
and therefore out of the question. Estimates suggest that over 110
million landmines are still in place.
What happened when:
World War II 1939-45:
Africa. Here, many large minefields were put down to act as impassible
barriers. Many locations are uncertain because they were either unmapped,
markers were lost, or sand drifts have tossed them about. Today most of
these minefields remain hazardous deserts.
Landmines were not used extensively until the end of the war. Both sides
of the conflict were involved in the dispersement of mines. Minefield clearance
is still being undertaken in places like Holland, while in France land
is still claimed by unfriendly landmines.
Nearly ten different countries relied on anti-personnel mines for defense.
The fields were so thick with AP landmines they were a constant threat
even to the faction who laid them. There are accounts of armies losing
too many troops during marches through the feared, uncharted minefields.
Here entire villages were surrounded by landmines, hand laid or dropped
from the air. Nobody kept full records of the mines laid and it is almost
impossible to do so for the mines dropped from aircraft.
wars 1947-48, 65, 71:
Minefields in this area were well-mapped and well-marked. These short
wars did not leave hazardous mines behind and there are no reports of civilian
casualties caused by landmines.
Here the only laying of landmines was done in mountainous country.
This was a lost cause because of the fact that the landmines could not
be triggered in the snow and they slid down the mountainsides even when
anchored, on account of the snow drifts. Mapping was futile.
Since the civil war an estimated 1.5 million landmines have been laid
almost at random in some fields. Others were laid to keep boundaries secured
during the war of liberation. Only 10% of the mines have been removed.
The SADF ( South African Defense Force) laid their anti-personnel mines
in marked and fenced areas surrounding encampments. The opposition laid
theirs mainly at random to threaten the SADF's movement.
Here the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is constantly dealing
with factions of different sorts within the country. Even though
these groups themselves use AP landmines the government considers them
out of the question; all the AFP's landmines have been destroyed.
Wars 1967, 1973:
Here many minefields were laid to disadvantage the opposition's movement.
After cease-fire the clean-up started. Most of the landmines were removed
and some casualties were inflicted on demining units. Regular barrier walls
are now thought to be the better way to go.
Anti-personnel mines and anti-tank were laid in northern Chad. Random
dispersement was common and the minefields themselves were invisible. Furthermore,
the government of Chad does not have any maps pertaining to these minefields.
Mine-laying was done with little effort to record and map the minefields.
Roads leading into the heart of the country were heavily mined and major
towns were surounded by AP and AT mines. Some demining has
occured but still Angola is considered to be the most mine-infested country
All the minefields there were not marked, but, if mapped, the
maps were not handed over to the UN. Many different organizations were
responsible for the mine-laying at different times and in different places.
Cambodia most of the mine laying was done by the Khmer-Rouge and targeted
civilian populations. Humanitarian groups have demined areas just to have
them remined again. Cambodia has more amputees as a percentage of
the population than any other country in the world.
has the third largest number of mines in their country. Most of the land
is mined, especially heavily along borders with Iran and Pakistan. Over
30 different types of mines have been found there.
Most of all the mines laid were placed in Kurdistan; this where most
of the action happened. Sometimes this "action" included using children
to run across a minefield to clear the way for the ground troops.
Here, mining was done without charting, so many of the original mine-layers
were recruited to demine.
Extensive use of anti-personnel mines was made by the Argentine government.
Some clearance programs were established, but were short lived due to heavy
casualties on demining units.
almost all mining was targeted at the civilian population. The maps of
these minefields are literally useless for demining purposes.
Most mines used here are anti-tank and there has been no report of
any mapped minefields.
Here the government laid AP mines, AT mines and other booby-traps in
the northern part of the country. Some maps were kept, but tended to be
Many landmines of both AP and AT were laid along the borders, but some
isolated minefields outside have been discovered. Some clearance has been
Desert Storm (Gulf War) 1992:
The mines laid here were mixed AP and AT and were positioned around
the newly conquered territory of Kuwait. These belts did not defend as
well as Iraq had expected, because the Coalition forces had modern breaching
techniques and high mobility.
There has been heavy mine-laying during this three year war. An estimated
3-6 million mines still remain uncleared. Some maps were kept and have
been turned over to the UN.
Landmines were laid along the borders and were not marked.
In this one month conflict, tens of thousands of landmines were laid
down on the borders between these two countries. Some efforts have been
made to demine the area, but still about 6,000 mines remain.
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