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ALBANIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Albania signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 8 September 1998, but it has not yet ratified. According to the Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee, the Parliament has begun the ratification process. Albania took part in all the diplomatic meetings of the Ottawa Process, including as an observer in Brussels and during the Oslo negotiations. Albania voted in favor of the pro-ban UN General Assembly resolutions in 1996 and 1997. Though it appeared to be considering changes in its mine ban policy, it did not attend the treaty signing conference, perhaps at least in part due to the turmoil in the country.

At the Budapest regional conference on landmines in March 1998, an official from the Ministry of Defense stated, “Being in social chaos and having victims from mines, arms and UXOs, the signing of the Ottawa Treaty became important.”[74] In his statement to the conference, the Foreign Ministry official said, “Our objective is to walk on the path of the Ottawa Convention.... We believe that very soon we will be in a position to sign it.... Following last year’s crisis in Albania, the situation with regard to antipersonnel mines has been very difficult. Since that time a significant number of landmines have fallen to private hands. The collection of these weapons is not a simple issue. The Albanian government is undertaking all the necessary efforts on both mine-collection and mine-awareness. Our NGOs are also doing their best in this area.”[75] Subsequently, representatives of the Canadian and Norwegian governments had high level meetings with Albanian authorities to further discuss the landmine issue and the Mine Ban Treaty. The Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee continued to build public awareness of the issue and held at week-long series of events in 1998. On 31 August in a meeting with the Committee, Prime Minister Fatos Nano said, “Albania shall enter the Ottawa Process and shall fulfill all it's obligations.”

The Minister of Defense has ordered the military forces not to use antipersonnel mines on Albanian territory. A Ministry of Defense official said, “Since the order was given, no antipersonnel landmines have been removed from the stocks. Even with the conflict in Kosovo and the grave situation at the moment, Albania will not use mines and will not mine any part of Albanian territory.”[76]

In general, the Albanian population supports a mine ban; the support can be seen in the participation by various NGOs such as Open Civil Society, Association for Reconciliation of Disputes, Movement for Disarmament, and the Human Rights Association, which were invited by the Albanian Antimining Friends Committee to join in the “Action against Landmines” week.


Although it is not generally known, Albania was a producer of antipersonnel landmines from 1967-1990. Before 1967, some hand-made mines were produced by various military units in small quantities. But the technology for mass production was transferred to Albania in 1967 by the People’s Republic of China, and two production facilities were built in that year. These facilities produced the POMZ-2 and the POMZ-6 fragmentation stake antipersonnel mines. Antitank mines have also been produced in Albania. The mine production was financed and supervised by the Ministry of Defense. The existence of mine producing factories and their accessories has been confirmed by various high-ranking military authorities.[77]

In 1990, by a government decision, the production of APMs was suspended, at least in part due to financial difficulties. Since then, there has been no production of antipersonnel or antitank mines.[78] Currently there is no research and development being carried out on any munitions and no production of anti-handling devices. The production of detonators and electro-detonators continues, along with the production of high quality explosive (tritol) in Elbasan (a new facility), but only for civilian purposes.

A study has been carried out regarding possible conversion of the two mine-producing factories into civilian production. But since funding is unavailable from either the Albanian government or from international sources, everything remains closed.[79]


Albania has never exported antipersonnel landmines. Because the mines were of old technology and not of export-quality production, there was no market for export.[80] British and American mines were transferred to Albania during the years 1945-1946. They were never used and the stocks were destroyed in 1950. Large numbers of mines were transferred from the Soviet Union from 1949-1960, and from China from 1960-1975. According to information from the Archives of the Albanian Army, Mine File 1945-1975, the Soviet Union delivered 120,000 PMD-6 box mines from 1953-1959 and 25,000 POMZ-2 stake mines in 1959. China delivered 30,000 POMZ-2M stake mines in 1968 and 150,000 PMN blast mines in 1969-70.


As a result of the social upheaval in Albania, in March of 1997 people looted a large quantity of weapons, including mines from the military depots. The Ministry of Defense has estimated that one million mines (500,000 antitank and 500,000 antipersonnel) are being retained illegally by the population. There is no way to verify this figure.[81] The UNDP is supporting a program for disarmament which includes the collecting of mines, which will then be destroyed. The Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee offered its contribution with its program “Person to person, house to house, meter to meter.”

According to Albanian military sources, 2.2 million antipersonnel mines are in still in military depots, ready for destruction.

The Albanian Army has periodically undertaken operations for the destruction of mines, which were considered either old technology or in deteriorated condition. Since 1948, considerable quantities of mines including those of German, Italian, Yugoslavian, British, American and Russian production have been destroyed and replaced with Albanian production. For example the Russian TM-41 and TMDB mines, the German telerminen, and British and American mines and all their accessories were destroyed. Only some samples were kept for training. Between 1948-1990, between 500,000 to 600,000 AP mines were destroyed.[82] Destruction usually is carried out by dismantling the mines.

More recently, Minster of Defense Order, Nr. 224, dated 26 September 1993, required destruction of 57,000 mines by 25 March 1994. These included old German and Soviet mines; destruction by the Army took place at Korÿa, Vlora, Elbasan, Shkodÿr, and Pÿrmet.[83] Currently, the Engineering Directory of the Ministry of Defense is preparing a plan for the destruction of the stocks of mines which will be sent to the government for approval.[84] According to the specialists, the cost for destruction of antipersonnel mines is as follows: 1) the destruction of PMN by exploding costs 0.5 USD per mine (taking out the transport, destruction work, security measurements, etc.); 2) for other types of mines, 0.2-0.3 USD per mine; and 3) for POMZ-2 mines, machinery might be necessary to break apart the metal for melting it in a foundry.


Mines were used in Albania during the First World War. More than 80 years later in Kavaja (central Albania) mines laid in 1916 by Austro-Hungarian troops are still removed from the ground and destroyed. During the Second World War in the Albanian war theater, mines with used by the Italian Army (1939-1943) and German Army (1943-1944). British and American mines were also deployed. The Albanian government used mines in 1949 in a conflict with Greece.[85] Throughout 1945-1990, the government planted mines at special sections of the border with Yugoslavia and Greece. At present these areas are completely cleared.[86]

A new landmine problem emerged in 1997 when the government gave the order to plant mines in order to protect the military depots from population attacks.[87] These mines have not been cleared.[88] On 24 October 1998 during an international conference in Albania, the Prime Minister of Albania declared that there are still 215,000 landmines in the ground which pose a danger to civilians.[89] This figure of 215,000 landmines laid in the ground during March-June 1997 has not been confirmed by the military or independent sources. The military believes that there are fewer deployed and only to protect military depots from further looting.

Landmine Problem

The current mine problem in Albania is a result of the estimated 215,000 mines planted in 1997, as well as the estimated one million in the hands of the population, without any control regarding their use or technical and physical state. The mines laid in 1997 cover an area of approximately 650 hectares. According to the Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee, in 1997 the number of deaths and injures from weapons, mines and munitions increased by approximately 1,000 % from 1996. As a result of measures undertaken by the government and maximal concern of Albanian society, during 1998 there was a decrease of approximately 70% in the number of accidents from these weapons.[90]

A serious evaluation of the mine situation was carried out for a conference, “About Clearance of Explosives from Albanian Territory,” held on 18 June 1998, by the Ministry of Defense. A Declaration by the Prime Minister on 24 October 1998 emphasized the need to clear the minefields and the Ministry of Defense gave instructions and rules for the protection of these dangerous areas.

Mine Action

In Albania between 1945-1965, approximately 500,000 antitank and antipersonnel mines were removed from the ground. Along Durrÿsi Bay alone, 200,000 antitank and 20,000 antipersonnel mines were cleared. Clearance is carried out by specialized units under the Ministry of Defense. In October 1998, NATO experts trained 13 Albanian engineers for clearance of infected areas by UXO.[91] In order to prevent accidents from victims, Albanian authorities, in cooperation with partner countries have undertaken emergency measurements including: the establishment of a group of 25 officers and 300 civil workers for demining and maintenance; the continued collection of information (filming and pictures) about minefields and areas contaminated by UXOs; and 24-hour service (guards and patrols) to keep the situation under control.

For the mines laid during the period of chaos in 1997, there are records. But as a result of rapid deployment, the records are not complete and in some cases there are also mistakes. The Albanian government, in Instruction Nr. 693, dated 29 December 1997, directs that clearance should be made by deactivating the mines and that mines which cannot be removed, such as the PMN, should be detonated. The Albanian Minister of Defense, in Instruction Nr. 133, dated 12 March 1998, outlines a demining plan.[92] The condition of demining equipment is very bad, dating from the 1940s and 50s, such as Russian-made VIN-205 mine detectors.

A delegation of Italian mine clearance experts (DIE) has been working in Albania since August 1997, joined by a Belgian team of two. The Italian government contributions have included planning, training and logistical support. They have trained 45 officers. Additionally, starting in October 1999 NATO will offer technical assistance (a training course).[93]

There is a pilot program in the district of Gramsh called “Disarmament for Development” to collect munitions that are in the hands of the population; it has been supported with US$535,000.

Mine Awareness

In Albania mined zones and dangerous areas from UXO are enclosed and posted with warning signs, and the population living around is informed about the danger. Minefields are protected by civil and military guards.[94] There are currently no national programs for mine awareness. The Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee is developing a project on mine awareness education at primary and secondary schools. In March, the ICRC started an assessment on mines and UXOs in order to establish a mine awareness program for 1999. Additionally, a publication on mines is prepared to be printed as a joint collaboration of Handicap International and the Albanian Anti-mining Friends Committee.

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

Prior to 1997, mines victims were rare--isolated cases of involving mines from World War II.[95] Since 1997, the toll has increased greatly, but reliable information is not available. The following are typical events: on 15 September 1997 in Kraste Martanesh (district of Burrel), six persons were killed from a mine which was in a building; in October 1997, in the Commune of Yzberishit (district Tirana), three children between the ages of 9-10 were killed by a mine which was thrown in a field.[96] Due to the lack of maps, lack of equipment and protective gear, very difficult field conditions, among other problems, during 1997-1998 military deminers have been killed and wounded. According to military sources, between 31 March 1997 and December 1998, 60 were killed and 114 wounded.

There is very limited capacity for treating and rehabilitating mine survivors. A governmental medical service network equipped for first aid and with old surgical facilities is responsible for the needs of the country. In Albania there are no therapy or rehabilitation centers. Prosthesis are made only at the Military Hospital. In 1998, a joint collaboration between the Military Hospital and the Swiss Red Cross began. Now the Swiss Red Cross provides the material for the production of artificial limbs. A foreign foundation makes wheel chairs for paraplegics, which only partially fills the needs of the country.

The possibilities for professional integration and engagement of victims at work are limited. There are no projects for financial or economic support for survivors. With the opening in Tirana of an office of Handicap International, an NGO providing assistance to mine victims, there are more possibilities for identification of and assistance for mine victims and for their reintegration in civil life.


[74]Interview with Colonel Lulzim Salillari, Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense.

[75] Statement by Mr. Agim Pasholli, Director of Multilateral Initiatives and UN Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the Budapest Regional Conference on Antipersonnel Landmines, 26-28 March 1998.

[76]Interview with Colonel Lulzim Salillari.

[77]Interviews with, among others, two former Defense Ministers – Alfred Moisiu and Major General Mendu Backa; a number of former directors of the Engineering Directory of the Ministry of Defense including Colonel Ramiz Fiyori, Colonel Xhavit Cela, Colonel Mevlud Zazo, Major General Juan Hoxha; and two EOD specialists from the Albanian Army, Major Ismet Miftari and Captain Arben Braho. Also the primary researcher of this country report, a former high-ranking engineering officer who used to deal with mine issues for many years, confirms past production in Albania.

[78]Interview with Colonel Xhavit Cela (retired), Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense (1987-1990).

[79]Interview with Colonel Qemal Mehmeti, Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense (1996-1997), currently Adviser to the Minister of Defense; interview with Colonel Lulzim Salillari, Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense since 1997; interview with Major Ismet Miftari, Chief of EOD of Albanian Army.

[80]Interview with Colonel Xhavit Cela.

[81]National Conference, “On Hot Spots,” organized by the Ministry of Defense, July 1998.

[82]Interview with Major Ismet Miftari, Chief of EOD of Albanian Army.


[84]Colonel Lulzim Salillari, Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense.

[85]Interview with Major General Mendu Backa, (retired), Former Minister of Defense (1975-82), Director of Engineering Directory in the Ministry of Defense (1960-1975).

[86]International Conference: “Possible alternatives and the ways for the collection of arms in Albania,” organized by the Albanian Atlantic Association, 24-25 October 1998. (Sponsors included OSCE, the Norwegian government, the Canadian Embassy in Budapest and UNDP. AAA also cooperated with the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Public Order.)

[87]Interview with Colonel Qemal Mehmeti.

[88]Interview with Colonel Lulzim Salillari.


[90]International Conference, “Possible Alternatives and the Ways for the Collection of Arms in Albania,” organized by Albanian Atlantic Association, 24-25 October 1998. (Sponsors included OSCE, the Norwegian Government, the Canadian Embassy in Budapest and UNDP. AAA also cooperated with the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Public Order.)


[92]Interview with Colonel Lulzim Salillari.

[93]Interview with Major Ismet Miftari, Chief of EOD of Albanian Army.

[94]Ibid; also interview with Major Ismet Miftari.

[95]One such case was on 4 February 1989 in the town of Durrÿsi where two 13-year old children were killed by a German mine (Teleminen).

[96]Surveys for landmine survivors (partially completed) in Tirana, Shkodyr, Lezhy, Krujy, Durrys, Vlory, Gjirokastyr.