At least four civilians lost their lives and nine more were seriously injured on Sunday when a landmine exploded near a residential building. The landmine was one of thousands which were laid by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Governorate.
“A landmine exploded in Aliya District, southwest of Hasakah, causing the death of four people,” human rights activist Wael al-Muhssin told ARA News.
“Nine others were wounded in the explosion. They were transferred immediately to the Hasakah National Hospital for treatment,” the source reported.
Eyewitnesses said that the explosion caused destruction to civilians’ houses.
“The mine, that had been planted by ISIS in front of a residential building, exploded when a motorcycle was passing by in the evening on Sunday,” a spokesman for the Kurdish Asayish Police told ARA News.
The Aliya District and other parts of southern Hasakah were liberated by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last February. While the jihadists are gone, their traps continue to pose a daily threat to civilians.
In most countries, the manufacture and use of landmines and similar indiscriminate weapons is illegal under the provisions of the UN’s Ottawa Treaty. In June 2014, Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR) banned the use of antipersonnel landmines.
Similar detonations have been reported in Kobane and Manbij, resulting in dozens of civilian fatalities. Abdulrahman Hemo, the head of the Kobane reconstruction board, told ARA News that “50% of the civilian death toll in Kobane has been caused by explosives laid in the ground.”
The Islamic State has been on the back foot for months, losing hundreds of villages and towns in northern Syria. As the jihadists withdraw they are planting landmines, near communities and along public roads.
Unmarked explosive devices have killed dozens of people in Hasakah Governorate, especially in the countryside where civilians are often unaware of the danger. The landmines also hamper resettlement efforts and preclude crop cultivation.
Responding to the challenge, Northern Syria – Rojava established the Roj Organization to demine Hasakah Governorate. The organization was established five months ago, with a modest budget and a staff of Kurdish volunteers. Their work is exceptionally dangerous.
Muhammad al-Himas, a member of the Roj Organization, told ARA News that his colleagues have been “encountering mounting difficulties while trying to dismantle the explosives.”
“Operating with such modest equipment affects the progress of our work,” al-Himas said. “We haven’t received any support from the international community.”