Yesterday, Eliot Higgins of the Brown Moses Blog shared a video posted by the “Dignity Brigade” or Liwa al-Kirama showing Type 84 remotely delivered antivehicle landmines or “parachute mines” in Syria. The camera operator states that the video was made on 23 April 2014 in Sawaysa, Quneitra in the Golan Heights in the southwest corner of Syria. Another video from the same location and date shows more of the mines as well as expended 122mm rocket motors.
This is believed to be the first recorded use in Syria of the Type 84 mine, which is produced by China and delivered by unguided surface-to-surface 122mm rockets up to a range of seven kilometers, according to standard ordnance identification and reference publications. Each Type 84 mine contains a shaped metal plate inside it that melts when the mine is detonated and is projected as a slug upward, intended to penetrate or disable a vehicle. The 122mm rocket is not shown in the video, but each rocket carries eight Type-84 antivehicle mines.
But this is not the first recorded use of the Type 84 mine. The New York Times reported and Human Rights Watch confirmed the use of Type 84 mines in the port area of the Libyan city of Misrata on 5 May 2011 by forces loyal to then leader Muammar Gaddafi. Two guards patrolling the port in a truck ran over two of the mines and one guard was seriously wounded in the blast.
The Type 84 mine is extremely dangerous and should not be handled or disturbed as it is equipped with a sensitive magnetic influence fuze that also functions as an inherent anti-disturbance feature. The magnetic influence fuze explodes the mine when it detects a change in its immediate magnetic environment. That change can result from a vehicle passing over the mine or a person approaching it while wearing or carrying a sufficient amount of ferrous metal, such as military equipment or even a camera. Additionally, given the sensitivity of the fuze, any change in orientation or movement of the mine may cause the fuze to function.
In addition, each Type 84 mine is equipped with a self-destruct mechanism that can be set for a period of four hours to three days. After the Type 84 mines were used on the Port of Misrata in May 2011, CJ Chivers of The New York Times provided a detailed account of the mines later exploding in accordance with their self-destruct feature, but at various different times, the last about 75 hours after it landed. “So much for those fuses being precise,” commented Chivers.
These technical characteristics mean that the threat to deminers posed by the Type-84 mine is not theoretical. As reported by The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, two deminers were injured in November 2011 and one killed in March 2012 while clearing Type 84 mines in Dafniya, Libya. As a deminer familiar with the munition put it, “Please someone tell people as soon as they leave the confines of the rocket they can arm and function at any time or self-destruct without warning.”
When the video showing Type 84 mines in Syria first emerged, some mistakenly believed it showed a cluster munition, because the same type of Chinese-produced Type 81 122mm rocket can be used to deliver explosive submunitions. Human Rights Watch has documented how during the 2006 conflict over South Lebanon, Hezbollah forces fired Type 81 cluster munition rockets containing Type 90 DPICM submunitions (also called MZD submunitions) into northern Israel.
The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits antipersonnel mines, but not antivehicle mines. However, antivehicle mines with antihandling devices or sensitive fuzes that explode from an unintentional or innocent act are considered antipersonnel mines and therefore prohibited under the treaty.