Syria overtakes Afghanistan as global landmine hotspot, watchdog says

Latest reported blast killed seven people, including a child, in Homs province

More than 2,700 people were killed or injured by landmines and unexploded munitions in Syria last year — making it the world’s worst-affected country in terms of casualties caused by the weapons, a study found on Wednesday.

The Landmine Monitor 2021 report said Syria had registered 2,729 casualties in 2020, overtaking Afghanistan, which topped the list of affected countries from 2008 to 2019.

Researchers did not identify any new use of anti-personnel mines by the Syrian government or Russian forces, but rebel soldiers “likely continued to use improvised landmines, as in previous years”, they said.

The 140-page study was released days after a landmine explosion killed seven people, including a child, in a car on Saturday in Homs province, central Syria, where death tolls mount even though the war’s front lines barely change.

Globally, researchers counted at least 7,073 casualties from mines and explosive remnants of war, including 2,492 deaths across 54 territories last year — not as high as the peak of 9,440 in 2016, but up from the 2019 tally of 5,853.

Marion Loddo, who edited the report, said the increase was due to worsening conflicts and the use of “improvised” landmines in such places as Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan.

She lamented the “disappointingly slow clearance” rate of landmines and unexploded weapons, despite some 164 nations signing on to the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997.

“If we are to reach a mine-free world, states must redouble their efforts towards speedy implementation of their obligations and a much more efficient distribution of resources,” said Ms Loddo.

Updated: November 10th 2021, 5:36 PM