Land mines left over from World War II are being used by the Islamic State group to inflict terror across North Africa and the Middle East.
Islamic terrorists see the minefields of the Sahara desert as both a means of adding to their arsenal and cover from Egypt’s military. A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who also served as Egypt’s land mine clearance czar told Newsweek Wednesday that the decision only seems unusual to casual observers — the Islamic State does not care how old a bomb is as long as it explodes.
“We’ve had at least 10 reports from the military of terrorists using old mines,” Fathy el-Shazly told the magazine. “Even now, these things trouble us in different ways.”
The terror group also uses the mine fields, which have claimed 150 lives since 2006, as a smuggling route into Libya. Members hire local guides to help SUV conveys make it through the treacherous terrain unscathed, knowing full that confronting military patrols is unlikely.
“It’s become a refuge for them,” Mr. Shazly added.
N.R. Jenzen-Jones of Armament Research Services told Newsweek that bad actors in the region do not limit themselves to land mines because all “legacy” weapons are in demand.
“We’ve seen several dozen British Webley revolvers previously or presently for sale, and then some Italian cavalry carbines, some Mausers, Bren guns,” Mr. Jenzen-Jones said.
The Egyptian government plans to clear the Saharan mine fields of all unexploded ordnance within the next three years. Its army was attacked with an IED from old mines as recently as March near the Red Sea.
Ahmed Amer, head of the Land Mine Survivors Association in Marsa Matruh, told Newsweek that European powers should help expedite the process.
“They’re getting away from their responsibility. They can’t just come here and then go away. They must clean this up,” Mr. Amer said.