ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) has cleared 7,414,199 square meters in areas liberated from the Islamic State (IS) of explosive devices and defused 43,057 IEDs and UXO pieces, Siraj Barzani, Head of IKMAA, said.
From IS’ 2014 onslaught until October 2017, three IKMAA units in Duhok, Erbil, and Garmiyan, in cooperation with Peshmerga forces, began their plans to clear contaminated areas and raise public awareness of explosive devices.
Barzani revealed that an IKMMA team with the assistance and supervision of a special chemical weapons team from the Ministry of Peshmerga and Ministry of Interior deactivated poisonous chlorine gas bottles which the extremist group had stockpiled.
“IKMAA teams in liberated areas faced a variety of impediments, including fragile security, logistical issues, unsatisfactory information about areas and risks, and pressure to hastily clear contaminated areas,” Barzani said, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) official website.
With financial assistance from foreign governments, international NGOs – MAG, FSD, Handicap International, NPA, DDG, and Sterling – participated in these clearing operations.
According to the agency, in 1991, 776 square kilometers of the Kurdistan Region was contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance, UXO, laid by former Iraqi regime forces. This number has since decreased to 270 square kilometers, a reduction of 65 percent.
“From 1991 until October 2018, there have been 13,233 victims of landmines and other explosive devices [in the Kurdistan Region]. Today, there are fewer victims due to clearance operations and increased public awareness,’’ Barzani explained.
The number of victims includes both those who were injured or killed.
His statement comes as Barzani headed a delegation to Vienna to participate in the annual meeting of the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
He mentioned that according to Iraq’s Mine Affairs Department, so far, 22,889 people in Iraq have been a victim of mines.
During the fight against IS in different parts of Iraq, 6,748 people have been victims of mines, Barzani added. The data only includes those that have been officially registered.
On June 4, a Kurdish resident, also a Peshmerga fighter, was found dead after stepping on a mine on Erbil’s Mount Qalandar, which the former Iraqi dictatorship planted in the 1980s against Iranian advances in their eight-year-long war.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany