Azerbaijan works to remove landmines as people return after conflict

Azerbaijan works to remove landmines as people return after conflict

The enduring aftermath of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh is the presence of landmine-contaminated areas. Azerbaijan is diligently engaged in the challenging task of clearing the remnants of landmines that have persisted for many years of conflict. The Nagorno Karabakh region in Azerbaijan stands as the most heavily contaminated territory in the world with landmines. Since the ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 10, 2020, a total of 314 individuals have fallen victim to landmine explosions, resulting in the tragic loss of 61 lives.

Hafiz Mamedov is among the 314 individuals who sustained injuries from a landmine explosion in the Aghdam region of Azerbaijan. Describing the ordeal, he shared with a BBC journalist,

“I didn’t even realize when I stepped on the landmine. Suddenly, there was an explosion, and I have no recollection of events thereafter.”

Hafiz Mamedov

Hafiz Mamedov, a 51-year-old civil engineer, was passionately involved in the reconstruction of the water supply system in Aghdam City when the catastrophic incident occurred, leading to the amputation of his leg.

“Over a span of 30 years of occupation, these territories were extensively mined by Armenian forces. The contamination extended beyond the contact line to affect other areas,” explained Madat Mamedov, a sapper with the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in an interview with BBC Russian. He added, “Battles raged on from 1991 to 2020 across different regions, further contributing to the contamination. The unavailability of landmine maps from Armenia has significantly heightened the complexity of our efforts in clearing these perilous devices, necessitating both additional time and an elevated level of expertise.”

Despite territorial prohibitions and police protection, individuals continue to be at risk of landmine injuries.

Hikmet Hajiyev

Hikmet Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration, informed local journalists about the Azerbaijani government’s negotiation with Armenian counterparts to exchange landmine maps for the release of prisoners of war. However, Hajiyev noted,

“Only 25% of the landmine maps were shared.”

The Azerbaijani government has ambitious plans to repatriate approximately one million people to their native lands. However, the substantial contamination of these territories presents a formidable obstacle. Local authorities estimate that it will take 30 years and an investment of 25 billion dollars to achieve complete clearance of these hazardous landmines.

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