Libya

Mine Action

Last updated: 21 November 2017

Contaminated by: landmines (extent unknown), cluster munition remnants (extent unknown), other unexploded ordnance (UXO), and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including improvised mines.

Not a signatory to the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Summary

The extent of contamination by landmines, cluster munition remnants, IEDs, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) is not known. In 2016, non-technical survey of recent confrontation areas was conducted by national clearance operators, with the support of international operators. A total of 479km2 of suspected hazardous area (SHA) and 235km2 of confirmed hazardous area (CHA) was identified in 2016. Clearance was reportedly conducted by army engineers, police, the National Safety Authority (NSA) and volunteers, but not in accordance with international standards and without providing reports to the Libyan Mine Action Center (LibMAC). In December 2016, national NGO Free Fields Foundation began spot explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) tasks in Tripoli.

Recommendations for action

  • Libya should immediately take further steps to facilitate access to contaminated areas for humanitarian mine action actors and develop national capacity to conduct mine action, with the support of international actors.
  • As soon as political conditions permit, Libya should enact mine action legislation, establish a national mine action authority, and adopt a national mine action strategy.
  • As soon as security conditions permit, Libya should conduct survey to identify the extent of mine, cluster munition remnant, and other UXO contamination.

Mine Contamination

Libya is contaminated with mines but no national survey has been conducted to determine the extent. Contamination dates back to the desert battles of World War II and conflicts with Egypt in 1977 and Chad in 1980−1987, which resulted in mines being laid on those borders. The border with Tunisia is also affected. During Colonel Muammur Qaddafi’s four decades in power, mines were emplaced around a number of locations, including military facilities and key infrastructure.[1]

Mines were used by both sides in the 2011 conflict leading to Colonel Qaddafi’s overthrow. The only confirmed instance of landmine use by rebels occurred in Ajdabiya, but other locations where pro-government elements laid mines included Brega, Khusha, Misrata, and the Nafusa mountains.[2] The escalation of conflict in Libya in 2014 brought new reports of mine use by armed groups fighting around Tripoli airport.[3] (See Mine Ban Policy profile for further details.)

The most commonly used antipersonnel mine type was the low-metal content Brazilian T-AB1 mine, but evidence has also been found of Belgian NR 413 stake and bounding fragmentation mines (PRB NR 442). Antivehicle mines used by government forces have included Chinese Type 72SP and Type 84 mines that were scattered by rockets over the port city of Misrata and Belgian PRB-M3 and PRB-M3A1 antivehicle mines, as well as minimum-metal mines. Sea mines were also used by government forces in the port of Misrata.[4]

The following table provides the data existing in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) database as of February 2017. However, this is a significant underreporting of the total extent of contamination as the majority of areas have not been surveyed.

Reported mine contamination by district and city as of February 2017[5]

District

City

SHAs

Area (m2)

CHAs

Area (m2)

Misrata

Taminah

0

0

2

832,720

Sirte

Abu Grain

1

222,934,834

0

0

Sirte

Sirte

0

0

2

95,824

Sirte

Wadi Jarif

0

0

1

7,498,699

Sirte

Wishka

0

0

2

40,557,456

Total

 

1

222,934,834

7

48,984,699

Note: SHAs = suspected hazardous areas; CHAs = confirmed hazardous areas; 1,000,000m2 = 1km2.

Six of the known CHAs contaminated by mines, totaling 41,485,999m2 are contaminated by antipersonnel mines, and one minefield, 7,498,699m2, is contaminated by antivehicle mines. The one SHA, 222,934,834m2, is suspected to contain antivehicle mines.[6]

In 2016, a suspected minefield was also identified in Tawargha during not-technical survey, and further survey is required to confirm the hazard.[7]

New contamination was added to the problem in 2016, with improvised mines suspected to have been laid during 2016 by Islamic State (IS) in areas that they controlled, such as in Sirte.[8] In July 2017, the engineering divisions of Operation Dignity[9] continued to clear landmines and booby-traps left by IS fighters from Benghazi, but also warned civilians from attempting to return to their homes before clearance work was finished.[10]

Cluster Munition Contamination

Cluster munition contamination is the consequence of armed conflict in 2011 and in 2015 but the extent is not known. In 2011, armed forces used at least three types of cluster munitions, including the Chinese dual-purpose Type 84, which also functions as an antivehicle mine, and the Spanish MAT-120, which holds 21 submunitions. In 2012, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) reported finding Russian PTAB cluster bombs,[11] while international media reported the presence of a fourth type of cluster munition that has remained unidentified.[12] Additional contamination by cluster munition remnants occurred as a result of kick-outs from ammunition storage areas bombed by NATO forces in 2011. A small quantity has been found inside a military academy in Misrata.[13]

In 2015, cluster munitions were used during fighting between Libya’s rival governments. This included RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M bombs, in attacks on Bin Jawad near the port of Es-Sidr in February, and in the vicinity of Sirte in March. The Libyan air force, controlled by the internationally recognized government of the time, had bombed both locations but denied using cluster bombs.[14] (See Cluster Munition Ban profile for further details.)

Other explosive remnants of war, including IEDs

Ongoing conflict in 2015 and 2016 has resulted in significant ERW contamination in numerous cities across the whole of Libya, adding to the contamination that arose from the nine-month revolution in 2011 and sporadic fighting since that period.[15]

ERW has affected public infrastructure such as schools, universities, and hospitals. As of January 2017, the number of internally displaced persons in Libya is estimated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to be more than 348,000. The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) states that there is no prospect of safe return for these persons before technical and non-technical surveying, spot-tasking, and/or battle area clearance are carried out. As of January 2017, thousands of internally displaced persons were returning, and the casualty rate from IEDs and ERW was reportedly high.[16] (See the Casualties and Victim Assistance country profile for further details.)

A multi-sector needs assessment conducted in mid-2015 and updated in February 2016 found that the presence of landmines and UXO was widely reported. Forty-eight percent of respondents in the east reported the presence of landmines and UXO in their community between June 2015 and February 2016, compared with 25% of respondents in the south, and 10% of respondents in the west. This was a decrease in the number of respondents reporting the presence of landmines and UXO in mid-2015, but the reason for the change was not provided.[17] This assessment does not replace non-technical survey but offers a general indication of the perceived threat, in the absence of more accurate data at the moment.

IEDs have proliferated in Libya during 2016.[18] They are found across the country, but particularly in areas that had been occupied by IS, such as Sirte, where they are estimated to account for 15% of contamination, with the remaining 85% being UXO. Since the fighting ended, as of February 2017, an estimated 40% of the population was back in Sirte.[19] Evidence from photographs in social media and community-based informants suggest that some of the IEDs are improvised mines.[20]

The following table provides data on known UXO contamination in locations where survey has been conducted. However, it is a significant underreporting of the UXO threat in the country.

Reported UXO contamination by district and city as at February 2017[21]

District

City

SHAs

Area (m2)

CHAs

Area (m2)

Ash Shati

Birak

2

20,103,357

12

66,536,437

Jabal Nafusa

Gualish

   

1

3,000,690

Misrata

Taminah

   

1

16,073

Tawurgha

   

5

51,487,084

Sabha

Al Jadid

   

2

0*

Al Manshiya

1

5,763

3

0*

A Nasariya

1

4,996

4

0*

Gourda

   

1

0*

Mahdia

3

380,705

2

2,706

Sukra

3

20,712

3

11,328

Tayoori

6

36,214

6

42,921

Sirte

Abu Grain

4

227,288,109

5

43,206,281

Alhay As Sanaie

2

911,625

4

4,930,924

Bu’ayrat al Hasun

   

3

4,571,154

Sirte

22

7,429,137

46

7,030,632

Wadi Jarif

0

0

10

4,219,793

Wishka

1

275,331

2

1,127,239

Total

45

256,455,949

110

186,183,262

Note: * No polygons are recorded as these are UXO locations, only reference points and UXO location points are provided, which will require EOD spot task activity in the future; 1,000,000m2 = 1km2.

Program Management

There is no national mine action authority, policy, or strategy for Libya.

Mine action exists in a fragmented political and violent context. Following years of conflict, a new UN-backed “unity” government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was installed in a naval base in Tripoli in early 2016. As of February 2017, it continued to face opposition from two rival governments and a host of militias.[22]

The Libyan Mine Action Center (LibMAC) was mandated by the Minister of Defense to coordinate mine action in December 2011. As of March 2017, it was operating under the UN-backed GNA. Its headquarters are in Tripoli, in the west. In 2015 and 2016, it did not have an office in east Libya, however it coordinated with institutions in Benghazi, and in April 2016, a regional operations manager was appointed for the east.[23] In July 2016, LibMAC also established a small office in Misrata.[24] The operating costs and salaries for LibMAC are funded by the United States (US) State Department and administered by ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF). In 2016, ITF supported the chief of operations to attend a senior management training course at James Madison University.[25]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Program for Demining and Rehabilitation of Lands was set up in 2004 and revived by the ministry after the change of regime.[26] However, there were no reports of its activities in 2015 and 2016.

The deteriorating security situation resulted in the withdrawal of UNMAS and international mine action operators from Libya in mid-2014. UNMAS has been operating from Tunis since November 2014, from where it supports mine action in Libya, through training and advice to LibMAC and coordination of the international mine action response.[27] Monthly implementation partner meetings are held in Tunis.[28]

In 2016, UNMAS and other international mine action operators continued to focus their efforts on capacity-building and training of national actors. In 2016, UNMAS provided training in humanitarian mine action, IMSMA, non-technical survey, medical training, and quality management to LibMAC and national operators.[29] International NGOs also provided capacity-building and training to their national partners (see the Operators section below).

LibMAC describes the following challenges to implementation: the high level of contamination; ongoing conflict and the continued presence of the IS; the difficulty in convincing internally displaced persons to delay their return until the ERW threat is addressed; security and access to priority areas continues to be problematic; limited ERW and IED disposal capacity in Libya; the vast geographical area; and, the shortfall in governmental and international support.[30]

Standards, quality management, and information management

National standards in English and Arabic developed with the support of UNMAS were expected to be finalized and published on the LibMAC website by the end of March 2017.[31] In 2016, LibMAC conducted quality management, primarily of training courses, with the support of UNMAS.[32]

LibMAC received IMSMA technical support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and UNMAS in 2016.[33]

Operators

Mine action operations are conducted by the army engineers, the police forensics department, and the Ministry of Interior’s National Safety Authority (NSA, also known as Civil Defense).[34] The NSA is mandated to conduct EOD in civilian areas.[35] These institutions liaise with LibMAC but are not tasked or accredited by them, and they do not provide clearance reports to LibMAC. DanChurchAid (DCA) provided training in explosive ordnance/IED awareness, non-technical survey, and EOD to individuals affiliated with these institutions. Due to the security situation, DCA managed its program from Tunis, and all training was provided outside Libya.[36]

In 2016, Danish Demining Group (DDG) was accredited to conduct risk education, non-technical survey, and EOD, and had operations in the south of Libya. By the end of 2016, it had three non-technical survey teams and one EOD team, which were mainly operating in Sabha. The national NGO Free Fields Foundation (3F) has a formal partnership with DDG for organizational development and technical capacity-building. It is accredited by LibMAC to conduct risk education. As 3F has not yet reached the standard required to conduct non-technical survey and EOD independently, it has permission to operate under DDG’s accreditation with its supervision. 3F is mentored and monitored by technical advisors remotely via Skype from Tunis. 3F is operational in the west of Libya, with two EOD teams and two non-technical survey teams.[37]

Handicap International (HI) trained two local partners in non-technical survey in 2016, Peace Organization from Zintan and World Without War from Misrata. Both organizations received accreditation for non-technical survey from LibMAC after the training. Following the training, Peace Organization conducted non-technical survey with remote management by HI from Tunis.[38]

A number of other Libyan civil society organizations also exist that reportedly conduct mine action operations, but they are not accredited by LibMAC.

LibMAC reported that the clearance by non-accredited actors, including volunteers, is problematic, as land release certificates cannot be issued.[39]

Land Release

Non-technical survey of former confrontation areas was conducted in 2016 to identify suspected and confirmed hazardous areas, but no land was released through clearance under LibMAC task orders.

Survey in 2016

In 2016, non-technical survey was conducted in Sirte municipality by LibMAC, army engineers, the police, and 3F; in Misrata municipality, including Tawergha town, by army engineers, volunteers, and 3F; in Benghazi by the NSA and army engineers; in Sabha municipality by DDG; and in Gwalish by HI’s national partners.[40]

In Benghazi, 18 SHAs for critical infrastructure development were surveyed by the police forensics department, NSA, and military engineering non-technical survey teams.[41] As of February 2017, however, no data had been approved for entry into IMSMA.[42]

Peace Organization, with HI supervision, conducted non-technical survey in Al Gwalish over an area of 148km2, identifying six CHAs (the total size of the CHAs was not specified).[43] This data has also not been approved for entry into IMSMA.[44]

Non-technical survey of mined areas, January 2016–February 2017[45]

Operator

SHAs canceled

Area canceled (m2)

SHAs

SHA total area (m2)

CHAs

CHA total area (m²)

DDG/3F

0

0

1

222,934,835

4

41,390,175

LibMAC

0

0

0

0

3

7,608,573

Total

   

1

222,934,835

7

48,998,748

Note: SHAs = suspected hazardous areas; CHAs = confirmed hazardous areas; 1,000,000m2 = 1km2.

Non-technical survey of areas contaminated by UXO, January 2016–February 2017[46]

Operator

SHAs canceled

Area canceled (m2)

SHAs

SHA total area (m2)

CHAs

CHA total area (m²)

DDG/3F

0

0

28

255,074,228

59

168,088,627

LibMAC

4

266,239

17

1,381,721

51

18,094,635

Totals

 

266,239

45

256,455,949

110

186,183,262

Note: SHAs = suspected hazardous areas; CHAs = confirmed hazardous areas; 1,000,000m2 = 1km2.

The four SHAs canceled in 2016 were in Sirte; three were NATO-bombed locations.[47]

Clearance in 2016

Battle area clearance was reportedly conducted in 2016 by the national authorities and volunteer groups in several locations across the country. However, this clearance was not coordinated with LibMAC, and no land release certificates were issued.[48]

DDG started EOD operations at the end of 2016, preparing an ERW store at a police station in Sabha for UXO awaiting further disposal.[49] In 2016, DDG destroyed two items of UXO.[50] In December 2016, 3F began to conduct spot tasks in Tripoli under a general task order from LibMAC and with the supervision of DDG, destroying four items of UXO.[51] DDG and 3F use Rendsafe technology for EOD operations in Libya. The method of disposal of single UXO items was chosen because of its ease of use and of the difficulties in transporting explosives in the current security situation.[52]

Progress in 2017

The UN Development Programme (UNDP)’s stabilization unit contracted DDG, DCA, and HI in January 2017 to conduct non-technical survey and risk education to support rehabilitation of key infrastructure in Obari, Benghazi, and Kikla, respectively.[53]

As of January 2017, planning was underway for the clearance of Sirte, and once approval is given by the head of the army and Sirte Council, work will start. As of February 2017, IED disposal was not considered by LibMAC to be part of humanitarian mine action, and it is therefore foreseen that this will be undertaken by the national authorities, trained by international actors. NGOs will have a role in battle area clearance.[54]

 

The Monitor acknowledges the contributions of the Mine Action Review (www.mineactionreview.org), which has conducted the mine action research in 2017, including on survey and clearance, and shared all its resulting landmine and cluster munition reports with the Monitor. The Monitor is responsible for the findings presented online and in its print publications.

 


[1] Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] HRW, “Libya: New evidence of landmine use,” 5 November 2014.

[4] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Officer, Joint Mine Action Coordination Team UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), Tripoli, 20 March 2012; HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011; Colin King, “Landmines in Libya,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 15.3, Fall 2011; and C. J. Chivers, “Land Mines Descend on Misrata’s Port, Endangering Libyan City’s Supply Route,” New York Times, 6 May 2011.

[5] Email from Abdullatif Abujarida, IMSMA Manager, LibMAC, 20 February 2017.

[6] Ibid., and 9 March 2017.

[7] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, Operations Manager, Danish Demining Group (DDG), 23 February 2017.

[8] Ibid., 22 February 2017.

[9] Khalifa Haftar launched Operation Dignity, under his forces’ control, to take Benghazi from what he described as Islamist militants and terrorists in May 2014. See, for example, “Operation Dignity in east Libya declares full control of Benghazi,” Libyan Express, 5 July 2017.

[10]The Month in Mines,” Landmines in Africa blog, July 2017.

[11] Email from Nina Seecharan, Desk Officer for Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya, MAG, 5 March 2012.

[12] C. J. Chivers, “Name the Cluster Bomb, an Update,” New York Times, 2 February 2012.

[13] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, Director, LibMAC, in Geneva,10 January 2017.

[14] HRW, “Libya: Evidence of new cluster bomb use,” 14 March 2015.

[15] UNMAS, “Programmes: Libya,” January 2017.

[16] Ibid.

[17] REACH, “Libya Multi-Sector Needs Assessment,” June–July 2015, p.18, and update, February 2016, p. 39. REACH is a joint initiative of two international NGOs and the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT).

[18] UNMAS, “Programmes: Libya,” January 2017.

[19] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.

[20] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, DDG, 22 February 2017.

[21] Emails from Abdullatif Abujarida, LibMAC, 20 February and 2 March 2017; and skype interview, 20 March 2017.

[22]Libya Country Profile,” BBC, undated.

[23] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, Administration Manager, LibMAC, 20 March 2017.

[24] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.

[25] Email from Roman Turšič, Head of Implementation Office Libya/Afghanistan, 26 February 2017.

[26] Email from Diek Engelbrecht, Programme Manager, UNMAS Libya, 20 July 2013.

[27] UNMAS, “Programmes: Libya,” January 2017.

[28] Implementing Partners Coordination Meeting, Tunis, 19 January 2017.

[29] Email from Lyuba Guerassimova, Programme Officer, UNMAS, 28 February 2017.

[30] PowerPoint presentation by Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, at the National Programme Director’s Meeting, Geneva, 8 February 2017.

[31] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 20 March 2017.

[32] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.

[33] Email from Lyuba Guerassimova, UNMAS, 28 February 2017.

[34] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.

[35] Email from Diek Engelbrecht, UNMAS Libya, 20 July 2013.

[36] Implementing Partners Coordination Meeting, Tunis, 19 January 2017.

[37] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, DDG, 22 February 2017.

[38] Email from Catherine Smith, HI, 22 February 2017.

[39] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.

[40] Ibid.

[41] PowerPoint presentation by Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, at the National Programme Director’s Meeting, Geneva, 8 February 2017.

[42] Email from Abdullatif Abujarida, LibMAC, 20 February 2017.

[43] Email from Catherine Smith, HI, 22 February 2017.

[44] Email from Abdullatif Abujarida, LibMAC, 20 February 2017.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.; and skype interview, 20 March 2017.

[47] Email from Abdullatif Abujarida, LibMAC, 20 February 2017.

[48] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017; and skype interview with Abdullatif Abujarida, LibMAC, 20 March 2017.

[49] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, DDG, 22 February 2017.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Email from Craig Castro, Head of Stabilization Facility, UNDP, 18 February 2017.

[54] Interview with Mohammad Turjoman, LibMAC, in Geneva, 10 January 2017.