Clearing of bombs makes way for new beginnings

The Sinjar District of Iraq, homeland of the Yazidi, was decimated by ISIS during its attempted genocide against this religious minority.

Although ISIS has been driven from the region, and the Yazidi people want to return to their homes, there are still remnants of ISIS’s terror in the form of land mines and unexploded ordnance.

The latest iteration of To Walk the Earth in Safety, the State Department’s annual report on mine removal efforts, highlights 11 U.S.-funded teams working in Sinjar to remove bombs from houses and farmland.

“These teams are playing a critical role clearing explosive hazards left by ISIS,” said Solomon Black of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. Department of State.

Workers carrying equipment to defuse mines (MAG)
A team prepares for a day of clearing deadly ISIS bombs in Sinjar, Iraq. (Photo courtesy of MAG)

He said partner organizations like the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) are “enabling displaced Yazidi communities … to return to their ancestral homelands and rebuild their lives safe from buried ISIS bombs.”

This year’s publication will coincide with International Mine Awareness Day on April 4.

To Walk the Earth in Safety

The United States is the world’s largest financial supporter of efforts to destroy excess, poorly secured or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons, investing $3.4 billion in more than 100 countries over the past 26 years.

A group of people carrying a mine tied to long poles (MAG)
A team carefully extracts an unexploded bomb in Laos. (MAG)

2018 marked the midpoint in a three-year plan investing $90 million in unexploded ordnance removal in Laos. These funds are provided in support of the Government of Laos’ goal to eliminate unexploded ordnance as a barrier to national development by 2030.

The Indochina Wars of the 1960s and 1970s left Vietnam, parts of Cambodia and Laos with some of the highest concentrations of unexploded ordnance in the world, much of it from the United States during the Vietnam War, as well as the Khmer Rouge, Royal Cambodian Armed Force (RCAF), and the Vietnamese and Thai militaries.

Starting with Vietnam in 1993, the United States has given $528 million to mine removal projects in the region. The Department of State credits this work with helping to clear the way for positive bilateral relationships to grow between former adversaries.