Mine Action

Last updated: 25 November 2016

Contaminated by: landmines (extent unknown), cluster munition remnants (extent unknown), and other unexploded ordnance (UXO).

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

Recommendations for action

  • Libya should initiate survey and clearance of mines as soon as possible and take other measures to protect civilians.
  • Contamination data and land release results should be recorded in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).
  • Libya should enact mine action legislation as soon as possible.

The extent of contamination by landmines, cluster munition remnants, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) is not known. No land release activities were conducted in 2015 due to ongoing conflict, and instead effort was focused on capacity-building and training of national actors. In 2016, non-technical survey (NTS) of UXO-contaminated areas was conducted by national operators, with the support of international operators. Informal clearance has also reportedly been conducted by volunteer army engineers and local organizations.

Mine Contamination

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 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] In 2016, a suspected minefield was identified in Tawargha during NTS, and further survey is required to confirm the hazard.[3] The escalation of conflict in Libya in 2014 brought new reports of mine use by armed groups fighting around Tripoli airport.[4] (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.[5]

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 tackling Russian PTAB cluster bombs,[6] while international media reported the presence of a fourth type of cluster munition that has remained unidentified.[7] Additional contamination by cluster munition remnants occurred as a result of kick-outs from ammunition storage areas bombed by NATO forces in 2011.

In 2015, fighting between Libya’s rival governments saw reported 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 of the time, had bombed both locations but denied using cluster bombs.[8] (See Cluster Munition Ban profile for further details.)

The impact of cluster munition contamination is unknown.

Other ERW

As of May 2016, ongoing conflict was reported to have resulted in significant ERW contamination in numerous cities across the whole of Libya. According to UNMAS, it has affected public infrastructure such as schools, universities, and hospitals. In addition, the new ERW threat is exacerbated by the minefields and ERW left behind from previous conflicts. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya is estimated to be over 435,000 by the UNHCR. UNMAS states that there is no prospect of safe return for these IDPs before technical and non-technical surveying, spot-tasking, and/or battle area clearance are carried out.[9]

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. [10]

In September 2015, national NGO Free Fields Foundation (3F) conducted a general assessment of the humanitarian situation in Benghazi. It reportedly identified large areas of highly populated areas with ERW contamination.[11]

Program Management

The Libyan Mine Action Center (LibMAC) was mandated by the Minister of Defense to coordinate mine action in December 2011. As of August 2016, it was operating under the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Its headquarters are based 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 2016, a regional Operations Manager was appointed for the east.[12]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Programme for Demining and Rehabilitation of Lands was set up in 2004 and revived by the ministry after the change of regime.[13] 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 provides support to humanitarian mine action in Libya.[14]

In 2015, UNMAS and mine action operators focused their efforts on capacity-building and training of national actors, as ongoing conflict prevented the implementation of survey and clearance operations.[15] In 2015, UNMAS and its international partners provided training to LibMAC, the National Safety Authority, army engineers, police, and national NGOs. The training courses included quality assurance/quality control, NTS, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and risk education.[16]

Monthly coordination meetings for mine action actors are held in Tunis.[17]


The Ministry of Interior’s National Safety Authority (also known as Civil Protection) is mandated to conduct EOD and counter-improvised explosive device (IED) activities in civilian areas.[18]

In 2015, Danish Church Aid (DCA), Danish Demining Group (DDG) and Handicap International (HI) continued to work in Libya, managing their programs remotely from Tunis. They focused on the capacity development of national partners, primarily through training courses held outside Libya.[19] 3F and DDG have established a formal partnership.[20] DCA conducted training and capacity-building to the National Safety Authority (NSA, also known as the Civil Defense), army engineers, police, and LibMAC in explosive ordnance awareness and NTS.[21]

National NGOs that received mine action training in 2015 from international organizations were 3F, World Without War (3W)—a Misrata based NGO, No Mines No War Remnants Foundation, and Assalama. However, they were not operational in 2015.[22]

HI, DDG, and 3F received accreditation to conduct NTS and mine risk education (MRE) from LibMAC in 2015 and 2016.[23]

Land Release

No land release activities (survey or clearance) were conducted in 2015.[24]

Progress in 2016

NTS was conducted in 2016, although little data is available. LibMAC conducted technical survey in Sirte and the surrounding areas following their liberation from the non-state armed group (NSAG) Islamic State.[25] The NSA conducted NTS in Benghazi.[26] HI’s national partners conducted NTS in Gualish and Tripoli Airport.[27] DDG and 3F reported that they conducted NTS of 443,544,257.36m2 in various locations across Libya in 2016. These areas were all contaminated by UXO, and did not contain landmines or cluster munition remnants.[28] The NGOs submitted reports to LibMAC, but they had not been approved for IMSMA entry.[29]

In 2016, a small group of army engineers reportedly conducted technical survey and clearance on a voluntary basis in Azizeh, Tripoli. They did not provide operation reports to LibMAC. Informal clearance activities were also reported to be conducted by an NGO in Bani Walid in 2016, but no details were available.[30]

In 2016, UNMAS continued to provide training and capacity-building support, including NTS for operations in eastern Libya (Benghazi). LibMAC received IMSMA technical support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and UNMAS in 2016.[31] DCA delivered training in EOD to the Libyan authorities.[32]


The Monitor gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the Mine Action Review supported and published by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which conducted mine action research in 2016 and shared it 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.; and email from Jenny Reeves, Weapons Contamination Coordinator, ICRC, Tripoli, 22 February 2012.

[3] Email from Dusan Milovic, Programme Officer, Danish Demining Group (DDG), 20 November 2016.

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

[5] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Officer, Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT) UNMAS, Tripoli, 20 March 2012; Human Rights Watch (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.

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

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

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

[9] UNMAS, “Programmes: Libya,” undated.

[10] 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).

[11] “General Report on the Humanitarian Situation in the City of Benghazi,” 3F, September 2015.

[12] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, Administration Manager, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

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

[14] UNMAS, “Programmes: Libya,” undated.

[15] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

[16] Email from Caitlin Longden, Junior Programme Officer, UNMAS, 9 August 2016.

[17] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

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

[19] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

[20] Email from Caitlin Longden, Junior Programme Officer, UNMAS, 9 August 2016.

[21] Email from Maria Berwald Madsen, Programme Manager, DCA, 11 August 2016.

[22] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016; and email from Caitlin Longden, UNMAS, 9 August 2016.

[23] Email from Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 14 November 2016.

[24] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

[25] “Report on the situation in the city of Sirte and its suburbs,” LibMAC, 23 June 2016.

[26] Email from Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 14 November 2016.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Email from Dusan Milovic, Programme Officer, DDG, 20 November 2016. Locations included Al Butnan, Al Jifarah, Al Jufrah, Al Wahat, Benghazi, Jabal Nafusa, Misratah, Sabah, Surt, and Tripoli.

[29] Skype interview with Abdullatif Hisham, IMSMA Manager, 9 August 2016.

[30] Skype interview with Ezzedine Ata Alia, LibMAC, 9 August 2016.

[31] Skype interview with Abdullatif Hisham, IMSMA Manager, 9 August 2016; and email from Caitlin Longden, UNMAS, 9 August 2016.

[32] Email from Maria Berwald Madsen, DCA, 11 August 2016.