‘Landmine use at 7-year high’

2011-11-23 09:19

Global use of landmines in 2011 has been the highest for seven years, campaigners said today, with Israel, Libya, Syria and longstanding offender Myanmar all recently laying the deadly explosives.

Launching a new report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, editor Mary Wareham said multiple explosives put down by Muammar Gaddafi’s government in the year of the Arab Spring were key to the rise.

“Thousands, if not tens of thousands were laid by the Gaddafi regime,” she told reporters in Bangkok.

Myanmar was the only country recorded as laying new landmines in last year’s report, but the southeast Asian nation has since been joined by Israel and Syria as well as Libya.

As a result, “use of antipersonnel mines during 2011 has surpassed that of any year since 2004”, said the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

“In Syria, after the report went to press, government forces laid mines on the border with Lebanon,” Wareham said, adding that the group was also “very disappointed” that Israel had decided to “refurbish” its mine fields this year.

Despite the widespread use in Libya, she said the new National Transitional Council has publicly committed to not using landmines and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines believes it has adhered to this.

In Myanmar, which has laid mines every year since the group began reporting in 1999, both the government and rebel groups continued to use the deadly explosives despite ongoing political change, the report said.

“On the ground, there is not much change in how antipersonnel mines are used by the government or militias,” said Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, a Landmine Monitor researcher.

The start of talks this week between several armed groups and Myanmar state authorities was a welcome development and the group will lobby for a ban on landmines to be included in any ceasefire agreement, he added.

Only 12 manufacturers of anti-personnel mines were recorded – the same as in 2010 – with just three countries believed to be actively producing: India, Myanmar and Pakistan, the report said.

Mines are still being laid by non-state armed groups in four countries – Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and Pakistan, it said.

Landmines and explosive remnants of war caused 4 191 new casualties in 2010, five percent more than in 2009.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines said the real figure could be nearer 6 000 casualties, with the discrepancy due to incomplete data collection.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines collects its data from a range of sources, including on-the-ground researchers, the military, government and charities.

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