Turkish military lost maps showing landmine locations on Syrian border

The Turkish-Syrian border is riddled with some 615,000 land mines planted since the 1950s to prevent smugglers and outlawed PKK terrorists from crossing the borde

Abdullah Bozkurt

The Turkish military lost track of the location of some of the landmines it had planted on the Syrian border, confidential military documents have revealed.

The document, filed by Lt. Salih Alasu on July 15, 2016, recorded an incident in which the Turkish military discovered six landmines during the construction of a concrete wall on the Turkish Syrian border. The lieutenant submitted the report informing his superiors that the location of the Turkish mines was not indicated on any mining map that the military had, prompting questions of how many unknown mines were still buried along the Syrian border.

 

 

The wall, being built as part of the multi-billion-lira Physical Border Security System (SFGS), is expected to cover all 911 kilometers of the Turkish Syrian border. The mines, not identified on any landmine map, were found by Special Mine Search and Clearing Teams (Özel Mayın Arama Temizleme, or ÖMAT) during construction near the Sakızlık border guard post in Hatay province.

All the landmines were manufactured by Turkey, and some were not marked on any mining map the military had, or else the maps were lost.

The report reveals the challenging task of landmine clearing by Turkey as part of its commitment under the Ottawa Treaty for the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction, known informally as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Turkey ratified the convention on March 1, 2004 and agreed to to clear all its landmine fields by 2014. However, that promise was not kept. Turkey had asked for eight additional years to finish clearing the landmines, but even that extension does not appear to have resulted in clearing all of them.

More than 1 million landmines are estimated to remain undetected in Turkey. Thousands of mined areas are not cleared, and some are not marked on military maps. Ankara had destroyed over 3 millions stockpiled mines and kept some for training purposes.

The Turkish-Syrian border is riddled with some 615,000 landmines planted since the 1950s, first to prevent smugglers and then Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists from crossing the border. Turkey suspended the clearing activity when the Syrian crisis started in 2011.

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