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Libya: unexploded weapons a further threat to lives in Ajdabiya

04-05-2011 News Footage Ref. V F CR-F-01091-B

As a result of the recent and ongoing fighting in Libya, unexploded weapons left from the conflict are a major hazard for the country's civilian population. Unexploded ordnance and armoured vehicles, including rockets, shells and mortars, are strewn across public places and residential areas in Misrata, Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The risk for civilians is high.

As a result of the recent and ongoing fighting in Libya, unexploded weapons left from the conflict are a major hazard for the country's civilian population. Unexploded ordnance and armoured vehicles, including rockets, shells and mortars, are strewn across public places and residential areas in Misrata, Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The risk for civilians is high.

The ICRC experts in munition clearance arrived in Benghazi 28 April. They started clearing yesterday dangerous devices in areas around Ajdabiya. This is the beginning of a sustained effort to reduce the weapon contamination hazard for the civilian population, which will hopefully include conflict-torn Misrata as well in the near future. The ICRC experts mark the most affected areas before proceeding with the safe removal or deactivation. The work is done in close cooperation with the volunteers of the Libyan Red Crescent Society who are playing an essential role in defining the affected areas.

In Ajdabiya, many families are not able to return to their homes because of the threat posed by the unexploded devices surrounding their houses. In some cases there are even shells inside their houses which did not blow up. There have been as well reports about cases of recent injuries, mainly children in the past few days.

In addition, munitions stored in the Libyan Army bases in Ajdabiya, Benghazi and Tobruk – which were abandoned in early March – and in other areas in the eastern part of the country, are accessible to the local population. To make matters worse, some of the stores exploded, scattering the munitions over vast areas. Finally, because many armoured fighting vehicles, truck-mounted rocket launchers and other military vehicles have been destroyed in the fighting or by air strikes, unexploded ordnance is frequently found around the destroyed vehicles or inside them in unstable condition.

"Since the moment of our arrival to Benghazi in February, the urgency of implementing a clearance programme for the unexploded ordnances was apparent", said Simon Brooks, the Head of ICRC mission in Benghazi. "This is the first time the ICRC implements such a program while military operations are still ongoing. If we do not do it now, many civilians will be in danger and will not be able to quickly return to their homes".

The ICRC has also launched a campaign to help civilians understand the risks such ordnance represents. In cooperation with volunteers from the Libyan Red Crescent, it is organizing sessions, distributing posters and leaflets to alert civilians about the risk they face.

Libya's struggle against explosive devices dates back to the Second World War and to the conflicts with Egypt in 1977 and Chad in 1980-1987. The borders with Egypt, Chad and Tunisia are still littered with anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and other unexploded munitions.

Shotlist

00:00 Inner view from a kitchen in a house in Ajdabiya, with a large hole in one of the walls.

01:00:09 Filmed from a different angle, the same kitchen: we can see a rocket lying on the kitchen floor.

01:00:15:20 Two outer views of the same house: we can see a war-torn veranda off the perforated kitchen wall; in the second we see three young people chatting. One of them is Abou Bakr Saeed Mohamed (see below).

01:00:30:23 ITW of Abou Bakr Saeed Mohamed, close neighbour of this house and also a relative of his owner (In Arabic) :

The day the attacked the area, this shell fell on the house but did not explode.
We were in the house nearby. When it fell, it didn't explode: it simply hit the ground and entered. We were scared, the neighbors were there a bit before, their kids were inside the house just a bit before the shell fell. They went out just five minutes before... We took no measures. We informed the people of the Libyan Red Crescent and they told us they will bring an expert to take it away.

01:01:07:04 Detail shot of the previously seen rocket, on the kitchen floor.

01:01:11:22 Two members of the EOD (Explosive Ordinances Disposal) Team clear this house by cautiously removing the rocket. They transport it towards the back of an ICRC pick-up (wide view)

01:01:18:24 Detail view of a sandbag-filled cask in which the rocket is ought to be transported to a safer place.

01:01:23:19 The same two members of the EOD Team reach the back of the pick-up
(wide view), and close the metal lid once the rocket is laid.

01:01:37:00  The desert a few kilometres of Ajdabiya (side travelling view)

01:01:46:07 The EOD team pick-up reach a military zone that has been devoted by local authorities to transportable explosive remnants of war storage (wide view).

01:01:59:19 Two wide views show the ghostly surroundings of this military zone.

01:02:10:08 Two members of the EOD team leave the rocket in a chosen lot.

01:02:36:24 ITW by EOD team member Ivo Palm (in English)

I am a part of EOD team that will try to clear explosive remnants of war in Ajdabiya in Libya. So when we have received all the equipment that has been brought in from abroad, we can start making surveys in areas that have been affected by the war.

01:02:55:14 Two members of EOD team make a preliminary survey in the outskirts of Ajdabiya. They unexploded ordinances are sprayed in different colors according to risk level.
(several shots, taken from a distance).

01:03:33:15 An abandoned and partially destroyed armoured vehicle on the side of the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, at about 20 km from the latter city (wide view).

01:03:37:15 A totally destroyed vehicle in the side of the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, at about 20 km from the latter city

01:03:41:10 Three members of EOD team walk along the highway off Ajdabiya, searching for unexploded ordinances (wide view)

01:03:49:06 Along the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, a wide shot with unexploded Grad missiles. This site lies in an easily accessible place.

01:04:05:11 ITW by EOD team member Ivo Palm (in English)

Already, even if people [in Ajdabiya] haven’t started to move back, the ones that are here have started to move fired ammunitions, which basically are UXOs (Unexploded Ordinances) and they are very very dangerous.

01:04:17:12 A group of bemused civilians explore an abandoned tank in the side of the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, at about 20 km from the latter city (several handheld shots)

01:04:43:06  In the same site, a tank destroyed by air strikes is torn apart by a local metal reseller (several handheld shots)

01:05:11:01 ITW of Ivo ( in English )

After that we will try to prioritize [these] different areas. What is most important in this prioritization is the impact on people. I mean, where are the highest needs for the Libyan people. To make the environment safe for them.

01:05:25:08 Two members of the EOD Team excavating an item that landed into one Ajjdabiya’s main streets (wide view, close-up)

01:05:35:21 Outer view of a wall of a shelled house in the outskirts of Ajdabiya.

01:05:39:11 Ivo Palm exploring an abandonned house in search for possible explosive remnants of war (inner view, handheld)

01:06:07:05 Libyan Red Crescent Volunteers listen to Lejla Susic during a “training for trainers” offered by ICRC (Close-up; wider view)

Voice of Lejla Susic (off): One group will work with the children. Definitely, you need to talk differently with children and with the adults. (text repeated in Arabic by a translater)

01:06:20:06 Still views of a poster distributed by ICRC for public awareness about unexploded remnants of war.

01:06:32:04  ITW of Ali Abdel Karim, an 11 years-old inhabitant of Ajdabiya (in Arabic )

There was an explosion. One of my cousins and his friend were killed after a friend of his aimed the shell at him. The three of them died. It was in Thilath Street in the morning. My cousin's friend held the shell, and they told him to put it down slowly so that it doesn't explode. But he threw it strongly and it exploded. The   three died. The people from Libyan Red Crescent warned us not to touch anything we would find, any bullets any ammunition. It is good that they do that, this way when the kids see ammunitions, they don't approach. Anyone who fits such step will not approach them and they won't explode on them.

01:07:22:23 Close-up of Lejla Susic, while she concludes the aforementioned training for Libyan Red Crescent Volunteers ( in English  ) :

Saving only one life… it cannot compare with anything.

ENDS   07:28:01

For further information, please contact:
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 79 536 92 50
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: + 870 7723 90 124


Ajdabiya, Libya. This shell entered the kitchen of a house through a wall but failed to explode.
  • Copyright: ICRC Access All
  • Release year: 2011
  • Production locations: Libya
  • Running time: 7'28 min
  • Languages available: English, Arabic
  • Reference: V F CR-F-01091-B