The U.S. State Department announced Sunday that it will send a team of civilian explosive experts to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to assist in disarming thousands of landmines now threatening the local population.
The mines are left over from the 1992-95 conflict that saw the dissolution of Yugoslavia. However, heavy rains have started to uncover some of the buried mines, and landslides and flooding have started to shift their location towards more populated areas.
On May 21, a landmine swept up in the flooding exploded near the town of Brcko, but caused no injuries. Many of the signs and warnings marking existing minefields have also been washed away, the State Department said.
“The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina estimates that 320 square kilometers of the flood zones are potentially contaminated by shifting mines,” a press release from the agency said.
Nearly 120,000 unexploded landmines are assumed to be left over from the earlier war. The U.S. government has given $96.7 million to explosive removal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and $15.7 million to removal in Serbia.
The department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement is sending their “Quick Reaction Force,” which has worked to remove landmines in former war-zones across the globe including Vietnam, Uruguay, the Philippines and Cyprus.
Rock-legend Paul McCartney has often been an advocate for stopping the use of landmines, which the United Nations estimates kills 20,000 civilians each year. Mr. McCartney often ran a “No More Landmines” campaign to raise awareness of the issue.