by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — Following the Islamic State’s (IS) ouster from the city of Manbij, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have discovered thousands of land mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) scattered around the city.

IED Reportedly Left by IS in Manbij (Photo Courtesy of Global Voices)

SDF, a United States backed rebel group in Syria, liberated the city of Manbij a couple of weeks earlier. Following reports that IS left the city with a couple thousand civilian hostages and using them as human shields, the SDF discovered thousands of land mines and IEDs in the city. The SDF released a statement saying there goal is to “identify and remove improvised explosive devices.” The SDF also stated the sheer amount of explosives still poses a significant threat to civilians.

The explosives are a mixture of Russian explosives, land mines, and various handmade IEDs. Approximately 13,000 to 15,000 land mines and IEDs have been discovered and disarmed according to the SDF.

Reports have revealed that not only did IS leave land mines and IED’s on known battle areas, but around areas where civilians were more likely to go or in objects civilians were likely to use. Ahmed Mohammed, an activist from Manbij who now lives in Turkey, said “Mines were found inside a garlic and onion basket, a staircase, and even normal-looking rocks across the fields.”

Pictures provided by the SDF appear to show explosives underneath rocks, on top of doorways, and even in soda cans. Sherfan Darwish, the Syrian Democratic Forces’s spokesman, stated the goal of IS was to slow down SDF progress and main and kill civilians. SDF officials say the mines have already claimed the lives of 100 civilians.

The use of mines in Syria has been extensive by all parties involved. The United Nations’ Mine Action Gateway reported that 5.1 million people live in areas where land mines are thought to have been placed. This number includes over 2 million children.

For more information, please see:

ARA News — Western-backed Syrian rebels dismantling ISIS explosives in liberated town — 23 August 2016

Daily Mail — ISIS laid at least 13,000 landmines as it fled Syrian town of Manbij – packing fridges, fruit baskets and even KETTLES with explosives  — 26 August 2016

Global Voices — ISIS Left Thousands of Mines in Manbij Before Fleeing. It Hid Them Inside Everything — 25 August 2016

Wall Street Journal — U.S.-Backed Force Steps Up Efforts to Secure Syria’s Manbij After Ousting ISIS — 14 August 2016

Author: Zachary Lucas