Landmines Account for Large Portion of Casualties in Colombia’s Civil War

Landmines Account for Large Portion of Casualties in Colombia’s Civil War

Editor's note: The United Nations has declared April 4 as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- As Colombia enters its fifth decade of civil war, landmines are causing what Colombia's top military commander describes as the "greatest damage" to his nation's armed forces, accounting for 50 percent of military casualties.

In recent years, as Colombian troops have intensified their campaign against the country's Marxist guerrillas, landmines have become the guerillas' most effective and destructive weapon. Landmines, together with unexploded ordnance like hand grenades, mortars and bombs, claimed three victims a day last year in Colombia, the highest casualty rate for such explosives in the world. Seventy percent of the victims were soldiers. Employed primarily by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia's most powerful guerrilla movement, and less so by the smaller National Liberation Movement (ELN), landmines require only basic training and a few dollars to construct, and continue to be planted and used at an alarming rate.

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