The Algerian army last month destroyed nearly 14 700 mines along its eastern and western borders dating from its independence war from France, the state APS news service reports.
Algerian authorities say another three million anti-personnel mines remain buried of the original 11 million laid by the French Army along Algeria’s borders with Tunisia and Morocco during a bitter and still divisive liberation struggle that raged from 1954 to 1962.
The French mined the borders from 1956 as a counterinsurgency measure. The Tunisian boundary, known as the Morice Line, was about 320 kilometres long and consisted of an electrified fence, barbed wire and the mined strip, some 45 metres wide. The barriers were not as effective as had been hoped.
France only handed over details of the minefields last year.
The APS ads that Algiers is committed to destroying all anti-personnel mines on its territory under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention and formally named the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction that outlawed the manufacture, storage, export and use of antipersonnel landmines (APM) and further mandated their destruction.
North Africa also remains littered with minefields left over from World War Two (1939-1945), with portions of Egypt and Libya particularly badly affected. Libya estimates that between 1.5 and three million mines and items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) still lurk beneath its soil, while Egypt puts the number at 20 million.
An International Campaign to Ban Landmine report on Libya lists as areas most affected by mines and UXO as Bir Hakim, Toubrouk, El Ghazala, Agdabiah, Al`Ougilaa and Benghazi. A similar report on Egypt notes mine contamination in the Western Desert area from Alexandria to the Libyan border and 30 kilometers deep from the Mediterranean coastline. Landmines planted during various Arab-Israeli conflicts from 1948 to 1973 also litter the Sinai Peninsula, Suez Canal area and Red Sea coast.
Algerian, Libyan and Egyptian newspapers regularly report mine accidents that particularly affect herders and children.