An Iraqi man wearing a protective bodysuit and face shield stands holding a metal detector. Beside him are signs warning of danger and posts used to survey land for explosive devices

Demining teams support country’s 2028 mine-free goal

Since 2016, Humanity & Inclusion has been conducting land release operations in Iraq. Explosive weapons clearance is currently underway in Kirkuk.

Contamination by landmines, improvised explosive devices, explosives remnants of war and other types of explosive ordnance represents a long-term threat for more than 8 million civilians living in Iraq. The country, which has ratified the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, aims to become mine-free by 2028.

Humanity & Inclusion is currently conducting clearance operations in Iraq around the village of Bashir to the south of the city of Kirkuk. A team of nine people, including two clearance operators and two mobile teams are working on this site. Already this year, they have cleared 16 acres of land and neutralized 32 explosive devices.

Since Humanity & Inclusion’s demining operations began in Iraq six years ago, teams have cleared nearly 450 acres and neutralized more than 1,600 explosive devices.


Neutralizing improvised explosive devices

Most of the explosive weapons found by demining experts in the area are improvised devices made of large metal containers filled with homemade mixtures of ammonium nitrate and aluminum. Most are triggered by a simple pressure switch.

Once located, specialists use hand tools to uncover the device, identify its parts and determine how it functions. Then, the operator decides the best course of action to neutralize the device: destroy the item where it is, use a spring-loaded cutter to remotely separate the switch that initiates the device from the detonation chain or remotely cut the wires of the electrical circuit.

Operators are aware of the constant threat posed by an anti-lift device or the possibility of a second device being placed under the main one. As a precaution, and to negate this threat, all the component parts are remotely lifted out of the ground from a safe distance using different configurations of anchors, hooks and line.

Safely returning land to communities

Land release operations aim to identify contaminated areas and clear them in order to provide safe access to those areas for development or agricultural purposes. With a population of 3,000, Bashir is mostly rural farmland. Approximately one-third of residents are landowners and land users.

Iraq acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on in August 2007, and formally became a State Party to the treaty in February 2008. Fully committed to meet the objectives of the treaty, Iraqi authorities are working to make the country mine-free by 2028.

Widespread contamination of landmines, improvised mines and unexploded ordnance makes Iraq among the most contaminated countries in the world. Currently, 8.5 million people in Iraq are at-risk of landmines and improvised explosive devices. Nearly 350,000 acres of land, including agricultural land and urban areas, are dangerous and unusable.