Tripoli, 9 August 2013:
Three Libyan towns and cities have been made safer for residents after 100,000 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) dating from the revolution were cleared by an international NGO.
War debris has been removed from some 29,500,000 square metres of land in neighbourhoods in Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte. The areas, described as “highly contaminated,” and which include parks, schools, hospitals and beaches, have been cleared by Handicap International (HI), on the request of the Libyan authorities.
The cleared UXO included 5,000 rockets, 9,000 mortars and more than 70,000 projectiles, as well as cluster munitions, land-mines and tons of propellant. Some volatile items had to be detonated on site, even if found in a school playground. Most, however, were taken to secure locations for controlled demolition.
HI has been encouraging communities to immediately report suspect items. With support from the Libyan Mine Action Centre and the Netherlands’ Foreign Ministry, HI technical advisors have also trained a team of 25 Libyan de-miners to recognise and safely remove explosive remnants of war. These local de-miners can offer a direct response when new items are discovered and reported.
Even residential properties are not safe. HI said a grad rocket warhead containing 7.3 kg of explosive had been recovered from one home. An 81mm illumination mortar was also removed from a house in the city centre of Sirte and 27 anti-personnel mines from a garden in Misrata.
“Countless lives and limbs will have been protected by Handicap International’s teams in the last 18 months,” said HI’s Chief of Operations in Libya, Paul McCullough. ‘We, along with other international and Libyan clearance agencies have made a huge dent in the clearance of the explosive hazards, but the job is not yet complete.”
HI has been working in Libya since April 2011, when it started doing emergency mine awareness work with local people. For the last 18 months, it has been tasked by the Libyan authorities with conducting humanitarian explosive ordnance disposal, with locally-recruited teams.