By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 17 November:
The international aid organisation Handicap International has destroyed over 5,500 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in three . . .[restrict]bulk demolitions in Misrata.
The demolitions took place on Thursday and were conducted by one of Handicap International Libya’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams. The operation was the accumulation of five months’ work removing deadly items from the area.
Colonel Mohamed El-Turjman from the Libyan Mine Action Centre (LMAC), along with Libyan Military Engineers and a TV crew were amongst the onlookers who witnessed the demolitions. Part of the demolition planning stage was to inform the wider population of Misrata, through local media, to expect to hear demolitions between 11:00 and 14:00 on Thursday.
Among the items destroyed were mortars, mines, large calibre High Explosive (HE) projectiles, 250kg air-dropped bombs, small arms ammunition, as well as anti-tank weapons.
“After months of collecting these items from people’s homes, schools, farms and roads, to finally see them go up in smoke reminds you why you’re here”, said Handicap International Libya’s Chief of Operations Paul McCullough. “Every item destroyed moves Libya one step closer to peace and stability and removes the threat of injury, or worse death, from the population.”
Some of the war detritus was cleared from the grounds of the Libyan Air Force Academy which had been destroyed by NATO bombings last year.
Over a year after the liberation of Libya following the eight month internal conflict in 2011, an abundance of abandoned and UXO remains littered in towns and villages and along the coast road where heavy fighting took place.
Handicap International has been working in Libya since April 2011 when emergency Risk Education teams were deployed to the east in Benghazi, Brega and Ajdabiya to deliver safety messages to civilians caught up in the conflict on how to live safely amongst the remnants of war before clearance could take place.
Risk Education teams moved to Sirte and Misrata once they became safe, soon followed by Battle Area Clearance and EOD Spot Task teams, made up of locally recruited and trained Searchers through funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the German government. Handicap International teams to date have searched over 21,000,000 square metres of land and removed over 35,000 items of UXO from across the Sirte Basin in northern Libya. Over 90,000 people have been reached through Risk Education activities.
“Even after eight months of EOD operations we’ve still not broken the back of the clearance here. We’ll stay in Libya until the risks are more widely reduced, and a manageable residue is left for the authorities” added McCullough. [/restrict]