Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015


The Arab Republic of Egypt is contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war in the Western Desert, which date from World War II, and in the Sinai Peninsula and Eastern Desert, which are a legacy of wars with Israel between 1956 and 1973. Some recent mine incidents in Sinai may have been caused by mines emplaced by anti-government jihadist groups.[1] The precise extent of contamination across the country remains unknown and past estimates have been generally unreliable.

Most of the Western Desert contamination occurs around the location of World War II battles that took place between the Quattara depression and Alamein on the Mediterranean coast. Other affected areas lie around the city of Marsa Matrouh and at Sallum near the Libyan border.

The government has stated that some 17 million landmines were left in the Western Desert and another 5.5 million in Sinai and the Eastern Desert.[2] The UN Mine Action Team, in an April 2009 assessment, cautioned that data needed careful analysis to avoid reporting areas that had already been cleared and misrepresenting the problem.[3]

In August 2010, the Executive Secretariat for the Demining and Development of the North West Coast (Executive Secretariat) reported to donors than the army had destroyed 2.9 million mines while clearing 38km2 in five areas, leaving “more than 16 million mines” covering an estimated area of 248km2.[4] Details of items cleared do not appear consistent with other information.

In 2013, the army formally handed over to the Ministries of Housing and of Planning and International Cooperation an area of some 105km2 in the Western Desert, which it had reportedly cleared of mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO). Details of clearance operations were not reported. Minister of Housing Tarek Wafiq was quoted as saying that with completion of the project, one-fifth of the Western Desert had been cleared.[5]

Program Management 

Mine clearance in Egypt is conducted by the Egyptian Military Engineering Organization, part of the Egyptian armed forces.

In November 2006, the Egyptian government and UNDP agreed a project “Support the North West Coast Development Plan and Mine Action Programme: Mine Action.” The project provided for creation of an Executive Secretariat for Mine Clearance and the Development of the North West Coast in the Ministry of Planning to coordinate implementation of the North West Coast Development Plan by a partnership consisting of the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Defense, and the UNDP. The project provided for demining according to humanitarian and development needs, mine risk education, and assistance to mine victims.[6] 

The project was to be conducted in two phases lasting about 18 months each. The first phase concluded in 2014. In October 2014, the European Union agreed to provide €4.7 million to finance the second phase of the project, targeting clearance of 332km2.[7] 

Land Release 

The Executive Secretariat reported that Egyptian army engineers released a total of 155km2 in the Western Desert in 2014 through manual and mechanical clearance, although details of the procedures applied to the land were not publicly available. The Executive Secretariat reported teams cleared “scrap landmines, scrap UXO’s, scrap metal,” but gave no details. In 2015, the Executive Secretariat planned to release a further 134km2 in the Western Desert.[8]

[1]Sinai landmine kills three soldiers,” News24, 9 March 2015.

[2] State Information Services, “Landmines in Egypt,” 20 July 2009; and Mohamed Abdel Salam, “First phase of demining in Egypt complete,” Bikyamasr (blog), 18 April 2010.

[3] UNMAT, “Egypt Mine Action Inter-agency Assessment,” 14–18 April 2009, p. 11.

[4] “Egypt Mine Action Project Northwest Coast: Phase I Accomplishments,” Presentation by Amb. Fathy El Shazly, Director, Executive Secretariat, Cairo, August 2010.

[5] Nouran al Behairy, “20% of the Sahara in West Egypt cleared of landmines,” Daily News, 20 March 2013.

[6] “Support to the North West Coast Development and Mine Action Plan,” UNDP website, undated.

[7] “EU and UNDP celebrate the launch of the second phase of the project to help develop the North West Coast and mine action,” UNDP Press Release, 24 October 2014.

[8] Emails from Haytham Said Sabbah, Head of Information Management, Executive Secretariat, 14 and 15 April 2015.