Egypt orders new mine-clearance equipment

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The Egyptian Army will receive a second Armtrac 400 mine-clearance vehicle from the United Kingdom as it continues to clear up the millions of landmines left over from the Second World War.

The contract was signed during a ceremony on Wednesday and is worth $1.2 million, according to Egyptian news publication Ahram Online. Armtrac will also train four Egyptian military personnel to use the vehicle, which will be delivered in a month’s time, according to Armtrac.

The vehicle will be used to clear mines along Egypt’s northwestern coast. Egypt hopes to acquire another two of the vehicles for mince clearance, according to the Egypt State Information Service. The country successfully completed trials of the first Armtrac 400 in September 2010, in El Alamein.

The Armtrac 400 can clear up to 24 000 square metres of ground an hour using its three metre wide rotor, which can till the ground up to a depth of 55 cm. It can destroy 10 kg anti-tank mines without sustaining any major damage. However, the vehicle can be operated remotely from up to 800 metres away, further enhancing safety.

An estimated 20% of the world’s planted landmines lie below Egyptian soil, primarily from the Second World War and wars with Israel in 1956, 1967 and 1973. Some of the most heavily mined areas of the country include areas in the Western Desert, Sinai Peninsula, Suez Canal and Red Sea coast.

The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that landmines and explosive remnants of war in the northwest coast region deny access to almost a quarter of Egypt’s landmass.

Fathy El-Shazli, national project director for mine clearance and development at the Ministry of International Cooperation, told Irin that around 22 million landmines and explosive remnants of war lie in northwestern Egypt – particularly around the World War II battlefield of El-Alamein. According to the Egyptian government, around 3 000 people have been killed and 4 800 injured by landmines over the last 25 years.

The UN Development Programme, UN Mine Action Services, British Embassy and UK Department for International Development have all contributed to de-mining efforts in Egypt. According to General Mahrous El-Kelany, operational director of Egypt’s General-Secretariat for Mine Clearance (G-SMC), the most recent Armtrac purchase will be funded by foreign grants.

According to the G-SMC, the military has managed since 2010 to clear more than 31 000 hectares of mines. Cleared land has since been handed over to the agriculture and housing ministries for development projects.



Pic: Armtrac