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Country Reports
EGYPT, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Egypt has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty. Egypt participated in the Ottawa Process as an observer. It attended the October 1996 Ottawa meeting which launched the Ottawa Process, and the Vienna, Bonn and Brussels meetings, but did not sign the Brussels Declaration. It attended the Oslo negotiations as an observer, where it made its views known on key parts of the ban treaty text.

Egypt voted in favor of the 1996 UN General Assembly Resolution urging states to pursue vigorously an international agreement banning antipersonnel mines (passed 156-0, with 10 abstentions), but it was one of just eighteen countries which abstained from voting on the 1997 UNGA Resolution inviting all states to sign the Mine Ban Treaty; and one of nineteen countries which abstained from voting on the 1998 UNGA resolution welcoming new signatories to the treaty and urging its full implementation.

At the Brussels meeting, Egypt proposed some amendments to the draft treaty text, most of which were not accepted. It proposed that the time period allotted to stockpile destruction be extended “to a more feasible period of 5-10 years.” It argued that destruction of emplaced mines “take into account the cost of such operations and the resources available for mine clearance efforts at the national and international level.” Egypt was also concerned that “all major parties” including “producers, exporters, and affected countries” take part in the negotiations as their participation is viewed as “instrumental in the achievement of universal adherence and effective implementation” of the ban treaty.[1]

Egypt’s reasons for not signing the ban treaty have been stated in various international fora. Arguments put forward by Egypt include that the treaty does not take into account “the legitimate security and defense concerns of states, particularly those with extensive territorial borders” which need landmines to protect against terrorist attacks and drug traffickers.[2] In addition, Egypt continues to voice concern at “a lack of financial and technical incentives” in the treaty to help the country deal with its landmine problem.[3] The government and military also express frustration that responsibility for clearance is not assigned in the treaty to those who lay the mines. Egyptian representatives have called this a “moral” issue. Millions of mines were laid in Egypt by German, Italian and British forces during World War II. Mines have also been used in the east in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 by Egyptian and Israeli forces. As noted above, Egypt publicly voices its need to use mines to defend its borders from terrorists and smugglers. In a February 1999 trip to Egypt by representatives of the ICBL, all these arguments were brought up repeatedly.[4]

It must be noted, however, that when Egypt voices its concern about the mines of the “Western Desert,” it generally neglects to mention that, according to its own estimates, many millions of mines are also found in the “Eastern Desert,” laid by Egyptian and Israeli forces in their various conflicts.[5] Nor does it mention its production of APMs, and its own transfers of mines to countries which have experienced armed conflict.

Egypt signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons on 10 April 1981, but has not ratified. Egypt is a member of the Conference on Disarmament, and has used this forum to push for responsibility of states involved in the deployment of mines in the territories of other states, and for national defense and security concerns.[6] In January 1999, Egypt said that it “welcomes the positive contribution of NGOs in the field of disarmament, and has repeatedly called for a more active NGO participation, most notably at the Conference on Disarmament.”[7]


Egypt is the sole remaining known producer of APMs on the continent of Africa. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Egypt produces at least ten types of antitank mines and eight types of antipersonnel mines.[8] Antipersonnel mines include:

- the PP-MI-Sk stake mine, a copy of the Czech PP-MI-SK;

- two different types of T/79 scatterable or hand emplaced, plastic blast mines, both copies of the Italian TS-50;

- the MF 270 bounding fragmentation stake mine, a copy of the Soviet POMZ-2;

- the MF 45 bounding fragmentation mine;

- the “HAMDY”directional fragmentation mine, similar to the U.S. Claymore;

- a wooden box “Shu” mine;

- the T/78 blast “Shu” mine.

Egypt has produced mines in at least three facilities, all of them run by the Ministry of War Production as part of its 10-plant Egyptian Military Factories (EMF) group.[9] One of these firms, the Heliopolis Company for Chemical Industries (EMF Factory 81) has exported a small plastic antipersonnel mine, the T/78 “Shu” mine, to a number of Middle Eastern countries. It is not known if EMF’s other mine-producing facilities--the Kaha company for Chemical Industries (Factory 270) and the Maasara Company for Engineering Industries (Factory 45)--also have exported mines.[10]

The Heliopolis factory produced Italian TS 50 antipersonnel landmines (Egyptian designation T/79 or T/7931) in conjunction with the Italian mine producer, Tecnovar. Vito Alfieri Fontana, the owner of Tecnovar, stated that 1,242,000 TS 50 mines were assembled in Egypt between 1979-1993. He provided the following figures:

Year Number of Mines

1979 100,000

1980 50,000

1982 225,000

1983 275,000

1985 282,000

1988 200,000

1990 50,000

1991 30,000

1993 30,000[11]


Egypt has exported mines exported to at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nicaragua, Rwanda and Somalia.[12] As reported herein in the country report on Italy:

On 17 September 1996, a member of the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Rwanda found TS 50 AP mines in a stock of weapons confiscated from armed Hutu groups. After communications between the UN Secretary General and the Italian authorities, Italy’s Representative to the UN confirmed that Tecnovar Italiana “manufactured the plastic parts of the yellow TS 50 type APMs in the period from 1980 to 1993, when the company stopped producing such items.” He also revealed that “the Tecnovar company did not supply TS-50 type APMs to Zaire, Kenya or the United Republic of Tanzania”[13] while noting that the company had supplied plastic parts for TS 50 mines to Brazil, Egypt, Spain and the United States. According to the owner of Tecnovar, the landmines found in Rwanda were part of the weapons supply that Egypt delivered to Kigali in 1992. This included 200,000 T-79 APMs.[14]

Egypt announced at an Organization of African Unity conference in May 1997 that it no longer exported antipersonnel mines but subsequent efforts to get this statement confirmed in writing have not produced a response to date.[15]


Egypt is believed to have a stockpile of antipersonnel mines but no details are available.


As noted, mines were used by German, Italian and British forces during World War II in the Western Desert. Mines have also been used in the east by Egyptian and Israeli forces during their conflicts. Today, Egypt publicly voices its need to use mines to defend its borders and to protect against terrorists and smugglers.

Landmine Problem

Egypt is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. The government claims “an estimated 22.7 million land-mines lie buried beneath Egypt’s soil - a figure that calculates to approximately one mine for every 3 citizens.”[16] A Ministry of Defense publication notes that 288,000 hectares of Egyptian territory are contaminated.[17]

In 1993, the U.S. Department of State listed a drastically lower number of “over 6,000 mines of WWII vintage” in the “El Alamein area, with unknown quantities along the area bordering Libya” and additional mines from various wars with Israel “remain in parts of Sinai.” More recently, the State Department has avoided putting a number on Egypt’s problem.[18]

Most of Egypt’s uncleared mines are left over from World War II, particularly in the area of the El Alamein battlefield and in the Western Desert. In September 1942, at El Alamein, in anticipation of an Allied advance, German General Edwin Rommel ordered the creation of a “Devil’s garden?a minefield so long and so deep that it was considered virtually impenetrable.”[19] Mike Croll states that 500,000 mines were laid at El Alamein in “two major fields running north-south across the whole front with a total depth of about five miles.”[20] Others argue that the British Army led by Field Marshal Montgomery buried most of the “18 million landmines in El-Alamein.”[21] The Egyptian government consistently states that 17 million mines were laid at El Alamein.[22]

Areas near the Egypt/Libya border, along the Red Sea coast of the Eastern Desert and areas of the Sinai peninsula are also mined from the 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 conflicts. (Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.) The landmines found in Egypt range from German, U.S. and British mines of World War II vintage to modern British, U.S., Russian and Israeli types.[23]

In March 1999, the United Nations reportedly proposed sending a team to assess the landmines problem in Egypt, and was “waiting for a green light” from the Egyptian Prime Minister.”[24]

Mine Action Funding

Egypt has been aggressive in seeking international financial support to clear its mines. According to the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Disarmament, despite asking the international community many times for help, “no serious effort has been made to help us, except perhaps from a very small number of countries which one can count on the fingers of one hand.”[25] Egypt seeks US$200 million in funding for mine clearance.[26] The United Nations reports that Egypt has requested that Western countries responsible for the El Alamein battle contribute US$142 million for mine clearance and the government would pay an additional US$50 million.[27]

Germany has provided Egypt’s mine clearance efforts with metal detectors and protective clothing while the United Kingdom has given $145,189 in mine clearance funding and equipment. The United States Humanitarian Demining Program has allocated $1.5 million.[28] Italy has provided demining training.

The British Ministry of Defense has apparently also, from the early 1980s, provided the authorities in Egypt with copies of surviving maps of known minefields and supporting information on the types of mines laid and the techniques used by the Commonwealth forces during the war. It is unknown how many minefields had surviving maps. There have been three visits to Egypt by Royal Ordnance Disposal officers (in 1981,1984 and 1994). The RAF also conducted reconnaissance flights over the area in 1984. The Ministry of Defense is currently preparing a new version of the map and data package that “makes use of advances in technology where possible.”[29]

An “informal donor’s group” is working with the United Nations Development Program in Egypt to encourage more transparency and involvement in Egypt. Western governments indicated an interest in funding clearance, in the context of a national plan which would involve all relevant ministries and not just the Ministry of Defense. Since Egypt claims that the development of tourism, for example, along the coast of the Western Desert as well as the petroleum industry there is hampered by mine contamination, donor governments argue that the appropriate ministries should be involved in the development of such a plan.[30]

Mine Clearance

The Egyptian Army has been involved in demining efforts since the end of World War Two. Egypt has four military national demining battalions of 480 troops; “millions of dollars each year” are budgeted for mine clearance.[31]

To date, 120,000 hectares of land have been cleared, removing a total of 12 million landmines.[32] One problem has been a lack of information on the locations of mined areas pointing to a need for a comprehensive survey of the problem. Rain, wind and shifting sands have moved the mines from their original locations or caused them to sink deeper than one meter into the earth. There is also a problem in that antitank mines planted during World War Two become increasingly sensitive as they degrade over time, making them prone to function like an antipersonnel mine.

Mine Awareness

The Egyptian Army sees a need for an awareness campaign, including better minefield marking and radio and television advertising, to alert people, including foreign tourists, to the dangers of uncleared landmines.[33] When representatives of the ICBL were taken to El Alamein by the Ministry of Defense, they did not see any minefield markings at all.[34]

Non-governmental mine awareness efforts to date include those of the Landmine Struggle Center, established in December 1997.[35] There is also a fledgling Egyptian Campaign to Ban Landmines, established in September 1998 and comprised of twenty non-governmental organizations.

Landmine Casualties

According to the Egyptian Army in February of 1999, landmines have claimed 8,313 casualties in Egypt, of which 696 were killed.[36] An undated publication by the Ministry of Defense gave a total figure of 8,301 mine victims. Of that number it reported that military casualties numbered 3,284, including 272 killed, and the civilian total was “estimated to be around 5,017 out of which 418 were killed and 4599 injured.”[37] Landmine casualties are cared for by the state which provides first aid, medical treatment and artificial limbs plus there is some compensation for families of military mine victims.[38] One medical center has started to examine the psychological needs of landmine survivors.


[1]Egypt Statement to the Brussels Conference in Handicap International and International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Conference Report: Brussels International Conference for the Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines, 24-27 June 1997, p. 28.

[2]Ibid; Mohammad Monieb, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Disarmament, Egypt, Letter to Mohammad Monieb, Secretary-General, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, 28 December 1998, reprinted in “Cairo Explains Landmines Policy,” African Topics, Issue 22, January-March 1998, p. 16.

[3]Aly Sirry, Counseiller, Embassy of Egypt to Tunisia, verbal statement to plenary recorded by Mary Wareham, HRW, Inter-Magreb Seminar on Anti-Personnel Landmines, Tunis, Tunisia, 25 January 1999.

[4]Jody Williams and Liz Bernstein of the ICBL visited Egypt on 13-14 February 1999, where meetings were set up under the auspices of the Canadian Embassy in Egypt. Meetings were held with representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense, among others. In a trip to El Alamein in the Western Desert, hosted by the MoD, it was pointed out that the main reason that Egypt refused to sign the Treaty was that no responsibility was assigned in the Treaty and that the former WW II allies should be responsible for the mine clearance. This sentiment was again echoed in a meeting hosted by Geneva-based NGOs from the ICBL at the United Nations on 2 March 1999 for representatives of UN Missions and others, where the Egyptian representatives strongly and repeatedly argued this point.

[5]During a public exchange at the United Nations in Geneva on 2 March 1999, an Egyptian representative acknowledged to the ICBL’s Jody Williams that Egyptian forces had used mines extensively in the Sinai.

[6]Egypt Statement to the Brussels Conference in Handicap International and International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Conference Report: Brussels International Conference for the Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines, 24-27 June 1997, p. 28.

[7]“Statement by the Observer from Egypt,” Inter-Magreb Seminar on Anti-Personnel Landmines, Tunis, 25-26 January 1999.

[8]U.S. Department of Defense, “Mine Facts” CD Rom; see also, Eddie Banks, Antipersonnel Landmines: Recognizing and Disarming (London: Brasseys, 1997), pp. 96-101, which also lists a M396 plastic “schu” blast mine.

[9]This information is drawn from Jane’s Military Vehicles and Logistics, 1992-93; Forecast International, Ordnance and Munitions Forecast - Landmines (International), 1993; and Nazir Hussain, Defense Production in the Muslim World (Karachi: Royal Bok Company, 1989).

[10]“Mine Facts” CD Rom on Massara.

[11]Alberto Chiara, “Io non sono un trafficante,” Famiglia Cristiana, n. 47, 27 November 1996. (See Landmine Monitor report on Italy.)

[12]Egypt has been identified as an exporter of AP mines in several U.S. Government documents including: U.S. Department of State, SUBJECT: landmine export moratorium demarche, Outgoing Telegram, 7 December 1993; U.S. Department of the Army, Foreign Science and Technology Center, Letter to Human Rights Watch, 1 November 1993.

[13]Letter dated 22 January 1998 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, Annex: Addendum to the third report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), United Nations, S/1998/63.

[14]Frank Smyth, Soldi, Sangue e politica Internazionale, Internazionale, n. 27, 14 May 1994, synthesis of The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch, “Arming Rwanda: The Arms Trade and Human Rights Abuses in the Rwandan War.”

[15]“Africa’s Last Antipersonnel Landmine Producer,” African Topics, Issue 22, January-March 1998, p. 15.

[16]Egypt Statement to the Brussels Conference, p. 28.

[17]Arab Republic of Egypt, Ministry of Defense, “The Iron Killers: Mines Tragedy in Egypt (A.E.R.), undated, p. 2.

[18]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines, 1994, p. 20; U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, 1998, p. A-4.

[19]Mike Croll, The History of Landmines (London: Leo Cooper, 1998), p. 61.


[21]Ahmad Lufti, “Unearthing the Lethal Menace,” African Topics, Issue 22, January-March 1998, p. 14.

[22]“Cairo Explains Landmines Policy,” African Topics, Issue 22, January-March 1998, p. 16.

[23]U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines, 1993, p. 84.

[24]Elizabeth Bryant, “UN Proposes Landmine Team for Egypt,” Houston Chronicle, 19 March 1999.

[25]“Cairo Explains Landmines Policy,” African Topics, January-March 1998, p. 16.

[26]Notes taken by Mary Wareham, HRW, of Egyptian Army presentation, in “The Situation from a Military Point of View Panel,” Regional Conference on the Menace of Landmines in the Arab Countries, Beirut, Lebanon, 11 February 1999.

[27]United Nations, “Country Report: Egypt,” UN Landmine Database, www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/country/egypt.htm, p. 2.

[28]“Mine Action Bilateral Support,” prepared for the Mine Action Support Group Meeting, New York, 4th edition, 16 November 1998.

[29]Hansard, 17 December 1998, cols. 655-656. See Landmine Monitor country report on the United Kingdom.

[30]Informal discussion with various Western governments and ICBL representatives, Cairo, 14 February 1999.

[31]United Nations Country Report, p. 1.

[32]Notes taken by Mary Wareham at Beirut Conference, 11 February 1999. The Ministry of Defense publication, “The Iron Killers,” states that 103,000 hectares have been cleared of 11 million mines.

[33]Notes taken by Mary Wareham, at Beirut Conference, 11 February 1999.

[34]Observation by Jody Williams after a trip to El Alamein hosted by the Egyptian MoD on 14 February 1999.

[35]"Landmines Struggle Center (Egypt),” booklet, undated.

[36]Notes taken by Mary Wareham at Beirut Conference, 11 February 1999.

[37]“The Iron Killers,” pp. 3-4.