By Mark Hiznay, Senior Researcher, Arms Division of Human Rights Watch
In recent days several media outlets including the Washington Post and CNN reported that Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga encountered landmines, improvised explosive devices (IED), and booby traps during their recapture of the Mosul dam from fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
As the fighting subsides and more journalists access the area, it is becoming possible to assemble on-the-ground testimony and begin to establish a visual record of the contamination.
Aris Roussinos from VICE News confirmed to me that “IED’s were dotted about” as he accompanied a Peshmerga column yesterday.
Freelance journalist John Beck today sent along this image of an IED emplaced by ISIS fighters and rendered safe by Peshmerga at a captured position 10 kilometers from Mosul dam. Beck also recounts, “ambulance crews told me they were getting 15-20 Peshmerga & Iraqi army casualties per day, mostly as a result of ‘mines’ left behind as ISIS retreated.”
While no pictures of factory produced landmines have yet to emerge from the aftermath of the battle, it is clear that new contamination from a variety of explosive devices has been created by retreating ISIS forces.
Because the device pictured has been disturbed by the Peshmerga to make it safe, it is not possible to conclude whether it was constructed to be victim activated. However, given the apparent retreat of ISIS forces from the immediate area of the device, the possibility of it being command initiated is significantly reduced. A prudent assumption can be made that devices like this are initiated by the contact of a person or a vehicle.