IEDs: tackling terrorists' weapon of war.


Some of the most memorable images of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, show her wearing a protective suit while touring a minefield in Angola in 1997 to raise awareness of the devastating effects of land mines.

After meeting 13-year-old Sandra Thijika, who lost her leg after stepping on a land mine, the princess told the media, 'I'd read the statistics that Angola has the highest percentage of amputees anywhere in the world...that one person in every 333 had lost a limb, most of them through land mine explosions.' She used the occasion to call for a global effort to address the problem.

Two years later, on March 1, 1999, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (also known as the Ottawa Mines Ban Treaty or simply the Ottawa Treaty) entered into force.

By 2018, 164 states, including 50 African states, had signed up, committing to 'not using, developing, producing, acquiring, retaining, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel landmines.'

However, 20 years since the treaty, there are still more than 50 million stockpiles of land mines, mostly in Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chad and Iraq, according to the US-based nonpartisan Arms Control Association, which is dedicated to drumming up support for arms control policies globally.

In a similar vein, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a network of NGOs, is upbeat about progress made so far with the Ottawa Treaty, reporting that 28 states have completely cleared and ended the use of land mines. These include South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Chad. Mozambique was declared free of land mines most recently, in 2015.

Non-state actors

While the treaty has proved successful with states, the bigger problem remains that of nonstate actors laying their hands on improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which include land mines.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) IED adviser, Bryan Sand, defines as an IED anything that is 'activated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person.'

'IEDs can be broken into three broad categories,' Mr. Sand says. 'The first category consists of victim-operated IEDs-these meet the definition of a land mine; the second category are timed devices that are set to detonate at a specific time; and the third category is command devices, which can be operated when one either presses a button or steps on a switch, etc.'

While land mine use is...

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