Syria: Improvised Mines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Manbij

October 26, 2016

Homemade landmines have killed and injured hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children, in Manbij, a city in northern Syria. The antipersonnel mines, often called improvised explosive devices, were planted by the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which until recently controlled the city. Most of the mines appeared to be victim-activated and therefore banned under international law.

During a five-day investigation in the city from October 4 to 9, 2016, Human Rights Watch collected the names of 69 civilians, including 19 children, killed by improvised mines in schools, homes, and on roads during and after the fighting over control for the city. The total is most likely much higher because Human Rights Watch was not able to collect information from all neighborhoods and villages. Hospital staff said that they had treated hundreds of people injured by improvised mines.

“ISIS mined virtually everything including, quite literally, the kitchen sink before they left,” said Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director. “These explosive devices have already killed and injured hundreds of civilians, but these numbers will increase even further as more people return to their homes.”

Survivors of mines and their families told Human Rights Watch that civilians returning to their homes after the fighting had been injured or killed by explosive devices placed in doorways and windows, under mattresses and piles of shoes, in refrigerators and bags of clothes, and in television sets and kitchen sink taps.

Improvised mines, other types of explosive devices, and remnants of war pose a significant threat to civilians and hinder recovery in other places that were under ISIS control, such as Kobane in Syria, and Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq. ISIS-planted improvised explosive devices will pose a major threat to civilians also in places where battles are impending to retake territory from ISIS, such as in al-Bab in Syria and Hawija and Mosul in Iraq.

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