Land mine situation in Nagorno-Karabakh

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Landmines in Nagorno Karabakh
HALO deminers clearing anti-tank mines
Date 1991–1994
Location Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan
Result Thousands of mines laid by both sides. Till present mines still result in casualties and prevent many hectares of agricultural land from being cultivated

Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh,

Casualties and losses
~123-180 dead,
~300-507 injured

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to be one of the most heavily mined regions of the former Soviet Union. Mines were laid from 1991-1994 by both Azerbaijani and Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

The United Nations and the U.S. had estimated the number of mines in Nagorno-Karabakh at 100,000, but after its 1998 assessment mission, the UN Mine Action Service concluded that the mine problem was not nearly as bad as original estimates portrayed.

Production, stockpiling and use[edit]

Soviet PMN-2 - the most common AP mine in Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh has stated that it has never produced or exported mines, and has not purchased new mines since 1995; its mine stockpile consists of mines left over from the former Soviet Union (PMN, PMN-2, POMZ-2, OZM-72, TM-57 and TM-62 mines). There were no official reports of new mine use in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2004 or the first half of 2005.


It is impossible to give the exact number of people injured or killed in Nagorno Karabakh on landmines because of lack of any records during the war itself, as well as no complete information available up until 2000. According to the Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Health, between June 1993 and May 1999 the number of victims of explosions, including landmines, was 687 (180 killed and 507 injured). [1] Since the cease-fire in 1994 to the end of 2004, 326 mine/UXO casualties were reported, including at least 77 people injured since 2000.

An estimated 69,000 residents in 60 villages in Armenia are afflicted by the problem.[1]

ICBL perspective[edit]

According to Landmine Monitor in 2003, 21 new mine and UXO casualties were recorded in Nagorno-Karabakh, including nine people killed and twelve people injured.[17] Casualties increased significantly in the first six months of 2004, with 30 new mine/UXO casualties recorded; eleven people were killed and nineteen injured, including three children. New landmine and UXO casualties had been decreasing since the ceasefire in 1994. In 1995, there were 86 casualties, 64 in 1996, 25 in 1997, 16 in 1998, and 30 in 1999.[19] There were fourteen casualties (five killed and nine injured) in 2000, nineteen casualties (four killed and fifteen injured) in 2001, and seventeen casualties (all injured) in 2002. According to HALO, the increasing casualty numbers are the result of record harvests produced in recent years and a greater investment in agriculture. As farmers try to increase their agricultural boundaries, more suspected mined areas are being ploughed—despite advice from HALO and the government, and the presence of danger mine signs. Most incidents involve antivehicle mines. The number of annual incidents per capita in Nagorno-Karabakh is far higher than other heavily mine-affected countries such as Cambodia or Afghanistan. The thirty new casualties in 2004 represent 2.5 people for every 10,000 inhabitants. In 2004, 34 new mine/UXO casualties, including ten people killed and 24 injured, were reported in 25 incidents; another nine people were involved in the incidents but did not suffer physical injuries.[25] At least three of the casualties were children. This represents a further significant increase from the 21 new mine/UXO casualties recorded in 2003. Of the 25 incidents in 2004, fourteen were caused by antivehicle mines, seven by antipersonnel mines and four by UXO. In 2004, one deminer was injured during mine clearance operations. [2] In 2005, one person was killed and three people were injured in five mine/UXO incidents to June; one other person did not suffer physical injuries.

UN perspective[edit]

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) says 123 people have been killed and over 300 injured by landmines near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh since a 1994 truce ended a six-year conflict between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.[3]

Survey and clearance[edit]


The HALO Trust is the only agency that conducts minefield survey, mapping and marking of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since 2000, HALO has surveyed more than 10 square kilometers of land, and this survey was ongoing in 2005.[16] HALO reports that it marks all the suspect areas it surveys with “Danger Mines!” signs. Post-clearance survey is carried out on a case study basis on some sites, as most areas are handed over and used almost immediately after they have been cleared.

There is no information on the number of mines laid along the current border-line between Karabakh and Azerbaijan, but it is common knowledge that mines were being laid by both sides along the border during several years after the end of the conflict. It is estimated that far greater mine clearance capacities will be required when the peace agreement is signed between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.


School posters in Karabakh educating children on mines and UXO

The Karabakhi Army has an engineering battalion that is involved in the clearance of minefields of strategic importance.

The HALO Trust - UK based demining NGO, is the only other organisation conducting demining in Nagorno Karabakh. In 1995 and 1996 HALO conducted an 18-month-long programme in Karabakh that established a mine clearance capacity for the local authorities. This included a survey of the region and the equipping and training of deminers. The teams operated without assistance for three years and whilst they successfully cleared hundreds of mines, their equipment had degraded and accurate records of clearance had not been kept for some time.

HALO resumed mine clearance in Karabakh in 2000 with a view to reinforcing capacity through a project of re-equipment, providing additional training and by establishing a mine action centre (MAC). The MAC collates information concerning mines, UXO and safe routes, and disseminates it to all who require it, in particular other NGOs and international humanitarian bodies operating in Karabakh. [4] Mine clearance in Karabakh by the HALO Trust continues to the present day. According to the Landmine Monitor, in 2004 the HALO Trust cleared 3.6 square kilometers of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, and a further 450,000 square meters in 2005 through April. It concentrated clearance on farmland, and re-focused mine risk education on adults, in view of mine casualties rising as agricultural production increased. By the end of 2004, ICRC had provided safe play areas for children in 27 villages.

From 2000 to 2003, HALO cleared 2,691,097 square meters of affected land manually, cleared 45,414,190 square meters by battle area clearance, surveyed 7,767,500 square meters, and destroyed 2,167 antipersonnel mines, 977 anti-vehicle mines and 8,710 items of UXO.[2]

In 2004, HALO cleared 3,580,289 square meters of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, destroying in the process 675 antipersonnel mines, 340 anti vehicle mines, 2,040 UXO, 2,352 items of stray ammunition and a large quantity of small arms ammunition.[12 ] Types of land cleared were primarily agricultural (1,519,953 square meters), access routes (1,003,537 square meters), major infrastructure (139,415 square meters), community infrastructure (33,900 square meters) and other (883,484 square meters). This represents an increase on 2003, when HALO cleared 2,302,761 square meters.[3]

As of 2011, most of the money to pay for HALO's Karabakh project came from the United States government. [4]

In 2004, the Engineering Service of the Army and the Department of Emergency Situations destroyed 48 antipersonnel landmines, 37 anti-vehicle land mines, 447 UXO and 5,141 items of small caliber explosive ordnance.[3]

Unexploded ordnance (UXO)[edit]

In addition to landmines, unexploded ordnance is as great a problem in Nagorno Karabakh. It is estimated that more people (especially children) have accidents from UXO than mines[citation needed].


External links[edit]

See also[edit]