International rights organisation, Human Rights Watch today said that landmines have killed and injured hundreds of civilians, including more than 150 children, in Raqqa, Syria since the Islamic State (ISIS) was pushed out of the city in October last year.
These landmines, which include booby traps improvised explosive devices (IEDs), were planted by ISIS when they controlled the city.
The information on the civilian casualties was collected by the rights organisation during a visit to the city in January this year. It was found that between 21 October last year and 20 January this year, mines injured at least 491 people, including 157 children, many of whom died.
However, the actual number of victims will be higher as many people had died before reaching any medical assistance and those deaths were not necessarily reported.
“According to local authorities, more than 14,500 families had returned to Raqqa, notably to neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, like al-Meshleb, by December 20, 2017. The authorities expect that substantial numbers of people will continue to return, despite the high level of mine contamination and the limited services available in the heavily damaged city,” HRW statement added.
The Raqqa Civilian Council, which is in charge of the city, issued a directive on 21 November last year urging people not to return to their homes before neighbourhoods had been cleared of mines and other explosive devices. However, HRW interviewed many local residents who said that they had returned to check on their homes despite the risks because they feared looting or wanted to avoid remaining in camps for the displaced.
HRW urged international donors to make mine clearance and mine risk education a priority to protect people from these avoidable deaths and injuries.
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