Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015

Not a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty

Non-signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions


Mine contamination

The State of Libya is contaminated with mines but no 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. Its border with Tunisia is also affected. During Colonel Muammur Qaddafi’s four decades in power, mines were emplaced around a number of sensitive 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] 

Cluster munition contamination  

Libya has cluster munition remnants contamination resulting from conflict in 2011 and in 2015 but the extent is unknown. Armed forces in 2011 used at least three types of cluster munition, including the Chinese dual-purpose Type 84 cluster munition, mentioned above, which also functions as an antivehicle mine, and the Spanish MAT-120, which holds 21 submunitions. Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has reported tackling Russian PTAB cluster bombs.[5] Additional contamination by cluster munition remnants occurred as a result of kick-outs from ammunition storage areas that NATO forces bombed in 2011.

Fighting between Libya’s rival governments in 2015 also saw use of cluster munitions, including 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, has bombed both locations but denied using cluster bombs.[6] 

Program Management

Since the downfall of the Qaddafi regime, mine action has felt the effects of wider political turmoil reflected in competing claims for a role in the sector by multiple institutions. The Libyan Mine Action Centre (LMAC), reportedly in existence as early as May 2011,[7] was mandated by the Minister of Defense in December 2011 to coordinate mine action, support efforts to control ammunition storage areas, and decommission weapons, while the Office of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army has jurisdiction over arms and ammunition and has a role coordinating a range of operations.[8] A decree issued by the Ministry of Defense in December 2013 specified that LMAC would be responsible for supervising the work of international organizations in mine action, survey of mined areas, and information management but made no reference to ammunition or small arms storage.[9] 

LMAC opened an office in Tripoli in 2012 and became the main focal point for humanitarian demining NGOs, but with limited authority outside Tripoli as a result of the breakdown of centralized government that followed the change of regime.[10] A new director, Colonel Mohammad Turjoman, was appointed in December 2013 and took up his position early in 2014, subsequently renaming the center LibMAC.[11] 

Other institutions claiming a role in mine action have included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Programme for Demining and Rehabilitation of Lands, which was set up in 2004 and revived by the ministry after the change of regime, and the Ministry of Interior’s National Safety Authority (also known as the Civil Protection Unit), which conducts explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and counter-improvised explosive device (IED) activities in civilian areas.[12]

UNDP observed in 2013 that “humanitarian mine action stakeholders in Libya have been thwarted in their attempts to effect the sound implementation of mine action in country due to a void in established governance within the sector. The resultant lack of confidence and the delays in recognizing a properly mandated National Mine Action Authority with the necessary resources and capacity by the government has only compounded the issue.”[13] Conditions deteriorated further with the sharp escalation of conflict in July 2014. 

A UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT) became operational in April 2011 and provided initial coordination for international NGOs, liaising closely with the Army Chief of General Staff,[14] resulting in tension with LMAC. In July 2012, UNMAS became integrated into the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as the Arms and Ammunition Advisory Section. In August 2013, UNMAS assigned an operations officer and quality assurance to LMAC to develop data management, tasking and quality assurance (QA) capacity.[15] UNMAS evacuated from Libya in July 2014, and since then provided support remotely, providing staff training in Tunis as well as facilitating coordination meetings in Tunis with the international implementing partners. In May 2015 in Tunis, UNMAS provided a capacity enhancement training course to LibMAC and national NGO Free Fields Foundation (3F), in operational QA/quality control (QC), mine risk education, and victim assistance.[16] UNDP has been working with national authorities to draft a law to provide a framework for mine action.[17] It also has a capacity-building mandate, overlapping with UNMAS’ mandate under Security Council Resolution 2095, “creating…confusion for national counterparts.”[18] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) provided a capacity-building advisor, embedded in the LibMAC from September 2013 to June 2014. 

Strategic planning 

A draft National Strategic Plan states that “the strategic goal of the Government and its development partners over the 2011–2021 period is to reduce the humanitarian and socio-economic threats posed by landmines/unexploded ordnance to the point where a residual amount of contamination remains that poses no significant impact on the population or infrastructure, and where capacity remains to take account of the needs of future development.” The UN noted that the objective of the program is to develop and modernize national structures to implement a national mine action program.[19] As of June 2015, the plan awaited government approval.[20] 


International operators working in Libya in 2014 included DanChurchAid (DCA), Danish Demining Group (DDG), Handicap International (HI), MAG, and commercial operator Mechem.[21] International operators evacuated expatriate staff in mid-2014 because of deteriorating security. DDG redeployed to Libya in October 2014, but operations were suspended due to delays in accreditation.[22] National NGOs reportedly working in 2013 included Free Fields Foundation (3F), Salama, and No Mines No War,[23] but the extent to which they were active in 2014 is not clear.

Land Release

Libya, for the moment, lacks an active program for clearance of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munition remnants. Some battle area clearance (BAC) and EOD continued in 2014 but the escalation of conflict in the second half of the year brought systematic clearance operations to a standstill. No clearance of mines was recorded by international operators in 2014.[24] International and national organizations working with LibMAC are focused on EOD and safe small arms and ammunition storage.[25]

MAG reported destroying nine submunitions in 2014 but this occurred in the course of clearance operations focused on ammunition storage areas in Hun, Misrata, and Zintan, in which it cleared 45,592 other items of unexploded ordinance (UXO). MAG had deployed an armored excavator facilitating clearance of rubble from bombed ammunition storage areas. MAG had planned a major expansion of its work in 2015 but reported mid-year it was in the process of closing its program.[26] DDG concentrated on EOD in the first half of 2014 but did not tackle any cluster munition remnants, and in June evacuated its international staff.[27] 

In 2015, no international clearance teams have been working in Libya but LibMAC has overseen some unsupervised spot clearance tasks in conjunction with the Libyan Engineers. Other spot clearance may have been carried out by the National Safety Authority or militias but has not been reported and is unregulated and unsupervised.[28]


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

[2] Ibid.; and email from Jenny Reeves, Weapons Contamination Coordinator, ICRC, Tripoli, 22 February 2012.

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

[4] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Officer, Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT) 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,” The New York Times, 6 May 2011.

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

[6] HRW, “Libya: Evidence of new cluster bomb use,” 15 March 2015.

[7] Andy Smith, “UNMAS in Libya – another critical failure,” Landmines and Humanitarian Action, updated November 2012.

[8] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012; interview with Max Dyck, Team Leader, JMACT, in Geneva, 28 March 2012; and email from Stephen Bryant, Programme Manager, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Libya, 23 July 2012.

[9] Unofficial translation of Ministry of Defense Decree 409/2013, 3 December 2013.

[10] Telephone interview with Tripoli-based international mine action stakeholder requesting anonymity, 30 July 2012.

[11] Telephone interview with Tripoli-based mine action stakeholder, 30 May 2014.

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

[13] UNDP, “2nd Quarter Progress Report, (PIP) Supporting the Capacity Development of Central and local stakeholders in mine action activities in Libya (Phase two),” July 2013, p. 3.

[14] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012; and interview with Max Dyck, Team Leader, JMACT, in Geneva, 28 March 2012.

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

[16] Email from Bridget Forster, Senior Programme Officer, UNMAS, UN Support Mission in Libya (based in Tunis), 25 August 2015.

[17] Interview with Stephen Bryant, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP (Libya), in Geneva, 2 April 2014.

[18] “2nd Quarter Progress Report, (PIP) Supporting the Capacity Development of Central and local stakeholders in mine action activities in Libya (Phase two),” UNDP, July 2013, p. 6.

[20] Interview with Stephen Bryant, UNDP, in Geneva, 2 April 2014.

[21] Email from Bridget Forster, UNMAS, 15 July 2015.

[22] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, Operations Manager, DDG, 7 July 2015.

[23] Email from Jenny Reeves, Capacity Building Advisor, GIZ, 11 April 2014; and email from Diek Engelbrecht, UNMAS Libya, 20 July 2013.

[24] Email from Bridget Forster, UNMAS, 15 July 2015.

[25] Interviews with mine action stakeholders speaking on condition of anonymity, June–July 2015.

[26] Email from David Willey, Regional Director for Angola, Somalia, and South Sudan, MAG, 5 May 2015.

[27] Email from Lutz Kosewsky, DDG, 7 July 2014.

[28] Email from Bridget Forster, UNMAS, 25 August 2015.