Last Updated: 17 December 2012

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Libya is contaminated with mines, cluster munition remnants, and a wide array of other explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of internal and international armed conflict in 2011, as well as earlier conflicts with neighboring countries. As of mid-2012, ERW were believed to pose the main threat to the population.[1]


Before the 2011 conflict, Libya faced contamination from mines left by the desert battles of World War II and by 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. In the past year, it has become apparent that mines had also been laid around a number of sensitive locations, including military facilities and key infrastructure.[2]

The conflict in 2011 that resulted in the overthrow of Muammur Qaddafi was marked by use of antipersonnel and/or antivehicle mines by government and rebel forces. The only reported instance of mine use by rebels occurred in Ajdabiya, but other locations where pro-government elements laid mines included Brega, Khusha, Misrata, and the Nafusa Mountains.[3] 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 remnants

The 2011 conflict saw use of at least three types of cluster munition. These included the Chinese dual-purpose Type 84 cluster munition, which also functions as an antivehicle mine, and the Spanish MAT-120, which holds 21 submunitions. Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has identified Russian PATB cluster bombs[5] and international media reported the presence of a fourth cluster-munition type that has remained unidentified.[6] The extent of contamination by submunitions is unknown.

In addition to items used in hostilities, demining organizations have encountered both Type 84s and MAT-120s as a result of destruction of ammunition storage areas. “Street museums” set up by local residents in Misrata and other locations displayed cluster munitions among a wide array of other items of ordnance, but by March 2012 the UN Mine Action Service Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT) reported all but one major museum in Misrata had shut down.[7]

There may also be some residual contamination from World War II. On 27 November 2009, a commercial oil company survey crew in Libya found remnants of a German World War II-era “butterfly bomb” (an early version of a cluster bomb). Subsequently, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) expert identified six more such cluster munition remnants.[8]

Other explosive remnants of war

Libya emerged from the conflict with extensive contamination by a wide array of unexploded and abandoned ordnance, although the precise extent is unknown. Heavy contamination by unexploded or abandoned ordnance has been reported around towns that became battle grounds between pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces stretching from the western Nafusa mountains to Zintan (southwest of Tripoli); in and around Misrata, Zlitan and Bani Walid (to the east and south east of Tripoli); Sirte Ras Lanuf and Brega (along the coast of the Gulf of Sidra) and further east near the town of Ajdabiya; as well as Benghazi and Tobruk (near the border with Egypt).[9]

International organizations have reported encountering air dropped bombs, 107mm (Radima), 122mm (GRAD), and 130mm rockets; surface-to-air missiles; sea mines and torpedoes as well as rocket-propelled grenades; a variety of mortar, tank, and artillery shells; and small arms and anti-aircraft ammunition.[10] International NGOs engaged in urban clearance reportedly found much less UXO in some areas (Misrata) than might have been expected from the intensity of fighting.[11]

NATO said its forces used 7,642 air-to-surface weapons during its seven-month air operation lasting until the end of October 2011[12] and in 2012 gave the UN detailed coordinates of 313 sites of possible UXO, including strikes by aircraft (303), helicopters (six), and naval warships (four), although it failed to provide details of the specific ordnance used or fuzing mechanisms and render-safe procedures.[13] EOD teams have reported clearing a number of large NATO bombs, including one of 900kg.[14]

Additional contamination resulted from air strikes on ammunition storage areas, scattering UXO over surrounding areas, and from sabotage by retreating pro-Qaddafi forces.[15] Schools and hospitals, precisely because they were not targeted by NATO, were often used by pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces, which left large amounts of Abandoned Explosive Ordnance (AXO) and UXO behind when they departed.[16]

Libya’s transitional authorities and demining organizations also faced a challenge securing huge quantities of ordnance abandoned by the Qaddafi regime, providing a source of explosives for use in improvised devices.[17]

Mine Action Program

Key institutions and operators


Situation on 1 January 2012

National Mine Action Authority

Ministry of Defense

Mine action center

Libyan Mine Action Center (LMAC)

International demining operators

NGO: DanChurchAid, Danish Demining Group (DDG), Handicap International (HI), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD)

National demining operators


International risk education operators

FSD, Handicap International, ICRC, MAG

National risk education operators

Libyan Red Crescent Society, Aman Foundation, Boy Scouts

Under the former regime of Colonel Muammur Qaddafi, the Ministry of Defense and the Civil Protection Unit, located within the Ministry of Interior and Justice, each had responsibilities for various aspects of mine action. The Ministry of Defense reportedly cleared areas serving either a military or civilian development purpose. The Civil Protection Unit is said to have carried out clearance in affected communities.[18]

As fighting between pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces gathered momentum, JMACT became operational in April 2011, working in partnership with international NGOs, initially from Benghazi, but later from a main office in Tripoli with sub-offices in Benghazi and Misrata. As demining operators became established in Libya, JMACT provided coordination, directing teams to areas needing clearance and collecting operational reports from partners, including DanChurchAid (DCA), Danish Demining Group (DDG), Handicap International (HI), Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP), the ICRC, MAG, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), and UNICEF.[19]

The Libyan Mine Action Center (LMAC) was reportedly in existence as early as May 2011, comprising some personnel who reportedly had been involved previously in mine action and now were organizing the monitoring of some ammunition storage areas seized from the government.[20] After the change of regime, the Ministry of Defense formally appointed the LMAC (on a date variously reported as November or December 2011) to coordinate mine action, to support efforts to control ammunition storage areas (ASAs), and to decommission weapons.[21] Germany provided funding to support LMAC establishing a head office in Tripoli with regional branches in Benghazi, Zentan, Misrata and Sabha,[22] but mine action sector sources said the breakdown of centralized government as a result of the regime change in 2011 limited the extent of LMAC authority outside Tripoli.[23]

As of mid-2012, LMAC continued to report to the Ministry of Defense and was engaged mainly in registering and coordinating international and national operators, some operational planning and information management (including reporting on operations since March 2012), in risk education data, and in recording of ASAs. LMAC had some 15 staff in management, operations, information management, logistics, and administration.[24] However, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also declared in 2012 that they have oversight roles in mine/ERW action and the demarcation of institutional responsibilities has yet to be agreed.[25]

In mid-2012, JMACT said it worked with LMAC and the Ministry of Education to provide a coordinated response to the ERW threat by coordinating implementing partners, prioritizing clearance tasks, mobilizing resources, and liaising with “the appropriate Libyan authorities.” UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) activities included working with Libyan authorities and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on developing management of ammunitions storage and light weapons. JMACT reported in early June 2012 that international NGOs included 66 international and 293 national staff, deploying 23 clearance teams and 29 risk education teams.[26]

Land Release

Libya did not formally report land release prior to, or during, 2011. Libyan teams and individuals are credited with having conducted most of the clearance of ERW since the start of the February revolution[27] but international operators recorded almost 20km2 of battle area clearance in 2011, most by MAG and DCA.

Survey in 2011

JMACT reported UNMAS had funded surveys “covering extensive areas previously not visited” in February and March 2012, generating more than 120 reports that would provide a more comprehensive overview of the extent and nature of contamination. JMACT reported the results were being analyzed and provided no details.[28]

Mine and battle area clearance in 2011

Humanitarian mine action in Libya in 2011 started when fighting between pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces was still intensifying. Although some mine clearance occurred, the priority for all actors in 2011 was both emergency clearance of ERW in populated areas that had been the scene of battles and also the securing of AXO.

Revolutionary brigades and local populations reportedly engaged in clearing mines and ERW, but no record exists to indicate the extent of their activities.[29] Five international organizations engaged in clearance in 2011, DCA, DDG, FSD, the ICRC, and MAG, and these were joined by HI operating in Tripoli and Sirte from January 2012. The number of clearance teams rose from 10 in October 2011 to 28 in January 2012, but the number dropped after March 2012 and by June stood at 23.[30]

JMACT reported that as of the end of January 2012, its implementing partners had cleared a total of 126,155 landmines and items of UXO, clearing 60 schools and 2,624 houses.[31] Little more than a month later, in early March 2012, JMACT said its partners had cleared 159,060 items, mainly UXO and ERW, covering 63 schools and 205 farms.[32] International demining operators recorded a substantially lower level of clearance in 2011 in their reports to the Landmine Monitor (see table below). In addition, NATO member navies assisted clearing sea mines in and around the port of Misrata and trained Libyan navy personnel.[33]

Mine and ERW clearance in 2011[34]


Mined area cleared (km2)

Battle area cleared (km2)

Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed

UXO destroyed

Submunitions destroyed





















Not reported






















DCA started in July 2011 with 35 operators in seven EOD teams, working initially in Misrata, then focusing on the area of Dafniya and Zlitan, and in November starting work in Bani Walid.[35] DDG, operating in Libya from the end of 2011, had four EOD teams, each with four people, working in the Sirte area and as of February/March had funding to maintain two of the teams until the end of 2012.[36]

The ICRC, present in Libya from the end of April 2011, operated two EOD teams, one in Sirte and the other in the Nafusa Mountains.[37] FSD started working in Libya in April 2011 and by the end of the year a total of 70 personnel, with EOD teams deployed in Misrata (one), Sirte (three), Benghazi and Tobruk (two each).[38]

MAG started operations in May 2011 with three multi-task teams (MTTs) conducting battle area clearance (BAC) and EOD in eastern coastal areas but then expanded its program; as of early 2012 MAG had a total of 16 international and 130 national staff, deploying nine MTTs in Zintan, Misrata, Sirte, Brega and Ajdabiya. In addition to clearance, teams worked on destroying structures and bunkers in two ASAs in Misrata and Ajdabiya. Funding available in 2012 supported operations in the Nafusa Mountains, as well as Ajdabiya, Brega, Misrata, Ras Lanuf, and Sirte.[39]

Clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas in 2011

Pro-Qaddafi forces used cluster munitions in a number of locations, most visibly in the port city of Misrata in April.[40] DCA reported clearance of mortar-delivered MAT-120 cluster munitions in Misrata[41] while Type-84 antivehicle submunitions were found by DCA in Dafniya and by FSD in Sirte.[42] However, submunition remnants have made up a relatively small proportion of the ERW encountered by operators (see table above).

Safety of demining personnel

Six deminer/EOD staff were reported injured in clearance operations in 2011 and one was killed in March 2012. Two of DCA’s international staff were hospitalized in November 2011 as a result of injuries suffered as they tried to defuse a Type 84 in Dafniya town.[43] An ambulance driver for MAG received minor fragmentation injuries from an unknown ERW blast at a BAC site in Ajdabiya in November 2011 and three other MAG staff members were injured in December 2011 when a fuze exploded as the team prepared a demolition pit. Two nationals sustained minor injuries and an international staff member was hospitalized but released the following day.[44]

A DCA international deminer was killed by a Type 84 submunition in Dafniya in March 2012 in the course of clearing buildings of ERW.[45]

Risk Education

Risk education (RE) started in April 2011 as a key part of the emergency response to the increased threat to civilians. Since then, JMACT partners have consistently deployed more RE teams than clearance teams. The number of RE teams increased from 25 in October 2011 to 35 by March 2012 before slipping back to 29 in June 2012. UNMAS and UNICEF provided early coordination in 2011, staging coordination meetings in September and October. The Ministry of Education appointed a focal point for RE in December.[46]

The ICRC focused on raising awareness through billboards, posters and leaflets, and on training Libyan Red Crescent volunteers in priority locations, including Nalut, Al Baida, Tobruk, Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Sirte, Misrata, Zlitan, Bani Walid, Khoms, and Tripoli. It also launched a three-week RE campaign on the radio in November 2011, with three spots each broadcast twice a day.[47]

HI, operating in Libya since April 2011, started in Benghazi before expanding to other towns, training 216 people in six priority towns as community mobilisers to raise public awareness delivering RE messages on mines, ERW and small arms and light weapons. HI also provided training and materials for NGOs in Benghazi. In the first two months of 2012, HI prepared a draft training curriculum for teachers at the request of the Ministry of Education and provided RE training for teachers. The training was mainly in Ajdabiya (26 out of 30 schools) but also Brega (four schools) and included the distribution of leaflets, posters and booklets. HI also trained Libyan scouts in Zlitan; the scouts movement was seen as an important potential network with 23 branches and 15,000 members across Libya.[48]

MAG delivered RE through community liaison officers integrated into their clearance teams who also collected information on dangerous areas and ERW casualties. It also trained community focal points in its operating areas to continue RE delivery and casualty data collection. Between July and December, MAG ran a project for Libyan refugees in Tunisia and returnees in Western Libya, later extended to Sirte.[49] FSD also started RE for refugees in Tunisia, moving the program later to Jadu in the Nafusa mountains. It also supported 14 Libya Red Crescent volunteers in Sirte, starting a campaign in December 2011 to distribute leaflets house-to-house and at busy locations in the town.[50]

The Croatian Mine Action Center provided training for a Libyan NGO, Aman Foundation, operating in Tripoli and Misrata, but was constrained by lack of funding.[51]


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

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

[4] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Officer, JMACT, 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; Christopher John Chivers, “Land Mines Descend on Misrata’s Port, Endangering Libyan City’s Supply Route,” New York Times, 6 May 2011.

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

[6] Christopher John Chivers, “Name the Cluster Bomb, an Update,” New York Times, 2 February 2012.

[7] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[8] Daily report by Jan-Ole Robertz, EOD Technical Advisor, Countermine Libya, 27 November 2009.

[10] See, for example, JMACT Weekly Report #3, 6 June 2011; “Libya fails to secure arms depots,” HRW, 9 September 2011; email from Nina Seecharan, MAG, 5 March 2012.

[11] Robert Keeley, “Urban land release in Libya: BAC and Land Release in Urban Areas,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 16.2, Summer 2012, p. 35.

[12] HRW, “Unacknowledged deaths,” 14 May 2012, p. 6. NATO reported that bombs of 500lb or less accounted for 82% of the ordnance used, 500 to 1,000lb bombs for over 7%, and 1,000 to 2,000lbs for about 10%.

[13] C. J. Chivers, “List of Unexploded Arms in Libya Is Seen as Limited,” The New York Times, 25 June 2012.

[14] JMACT, Weekly Report #20, 10 October 2011; email from Jenny Reeves, ICRC, Tripoli, 22 February 2012.

[15] JMACT, Weekly Report #3, 6 June 2011.

[16] Andy Smith, “UNMAS in Libya, another critical failure,” Landmines and Humanitarian Mine Action (website), updated July 2012.

[17] Interview with Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director, HRW, Geneva, 4 January 2012; Adrian King, “Conflict in Libya and the Future Risk to the Demining Community,” Journal of Mine Action. Issue 15.3, Fall 2011.

[18] Interview with Dr. Taher Siala, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, in Tripoli, 12 May 2005.

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

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

[21] Ibid.; and email from Stephen Bryant, Programme Manager, NPA, Libya, 23 July 2012.

[22]Libya: Securing weapons and destroying land mines, munitions and explosive remnants of war,” German Federal Foreign Office website, last updated 30 December 2011.

[23] Telephone interview with international mine action operator in Libya requesting anonymity, 30 July 2012.

[24] Email from Stephen Bryant, NPA, Libya, 23 July 2012.

[25] Telephone interviews with international mine action sources, Tripoli, 1−5 August 2012.

[27] Emails from, and telephone interviews with international mine action sources, Tripoli, 1−5 August 2012.

[28] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[29] See, for example, comments by Ian Martin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, A visit to Brega and Ajdabiya,” UNSMILPICS, 21 March 2012; Robert Keeley, “Urban land release in Libya: BAC and Land Release in Urban Areas,” Journal of Mine Action, Issue 16.2, Summer 2012, p. 35.

[32] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[33] See, for example, “NATO and Libya – Mine clearance in and around the port of Misrata,”,, 29 July 2011; Oliver Holmes, “French warships in Libya to train navy, demine oil ports,” Reuters, 31 January 2012.

[34] Emails from Knut Furunes, Program Manager Libya, DCA, 19 March 2012; Paul McCarthy, Operations Manager Tripoli/Sirte, DDG, 24 February 2012; Tony Fish, Program Manager, FSD, 2 August 2012; Jenny Reeves, ICRC, 22 February 2012; and Nina Seecharan, MAG, 5 March 2012.

[35] Email from Knut Furunes, DCA, 19 March 2012.

[36] Email from Paul McCarthy, DDG, 24 February 2012.

[37] Email from Jenny Reeves, ICRC, 22 February 2012.

[38] Email from Tony Fish, FSD, 2 August 2012.

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

[40] Christopher John Chivers, “Landmines Descend on Misurata’s Port, Endangering Libyan City’s Supply Route,” The New York Times, 6 May 2011; Libya: cluster munitions strike Misrata,” HRW, 15 April 2011.

[41] Andy Mattingly, “DCA resumes clearance work in Libya,” DCA website, 9 September 2011.

[42] Marcus Rhinelander, “Deadly cluster bomb thought to have killed Estonian mine expert,” Libya Herald, 11 March 2012.

[43] Emails from Knut Furunes, DCA, 19 March 2012; and Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[44] Emails from Nina Seecharan, MAG, 5 March 2012; and Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[45]DCA staff killed in explosion in Libya,” DCA website, 5 March 2012; email from Richard McCormack, Head of Mine Action Unit, DCA, 3 August 2012.

[46] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, Tripoli, 20 March 2012.

[47] Email from Jenny Reeves, ICRC, Tripoli, 22 February 2012.

[48]Libya, Explosive Remnants of War and Small Arms: A New Challenge for Libya,” HI, 2 February 2012; “Handicap International Final Report for UNICEF,” HI, undated but 2012; and email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, 20 March 2012.

[49] Email from Nina Seecharan, MAG, 5 March 2012.

[50] Email from Tony Fish, FSD, 2 August 2012.

[51] Email from Stefanie Carmichael, JMACT, Tripoli, 20 March 2012.