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Syrian forces laying mines along refugee routes to Turkey - report

Human Rights Watch says witnesses have seen the Syrian army laying the mines along the borders with Turkey and Lebanon.

Syrian rebels during clashes with government forces in Idlib, northern Syria.
Syrian rebels during clashes with government forces in Idlib, northern Syria.
Image: Rodrigo Abd/AP/Press Association Images

THE HUMAN RIGHTS group Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian forces of laying landmines near the state’s borders with Lebanon and Turkey along routes being used by those fleeing the ongoing violence.

The New York-based organisation said that witnesses and Syrian de-miners said that the both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines have been planted in recent months and that civilians casualties of the mines are being reported.

Syria is not a signatory on the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the main international anti-mine framework and it prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines. The mines recovered in Syria recently have been Soviet- or Russian-origin devices.

Eyewitnesses to the laying of mines along Syria’s borders said that mines had been laid along routes used by refugees fleeing to Turkey.

One former Syrian army deminer said that he and four others had voluntarily removed around 300 antipersonnel mines from Hasanieih. He said that the army had planted mines among fruit trees and although the military had told local farmers that it needed permission to enter the orchards, locals had not been informed that mines were being laid.

Meanwhile, a wounded Syrian opposition fighter told HRW that he had learned about landmines being laid in several areas along the border with Turkey from people who had been injured by the mines.

“Any use of antipersonnel landmines is unconscionable,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any purpose.”

Turkey has indicated it is investigating the reports of mines being placed along its border.

Russia’s deputy defence minister told the Associated Press today that Russia has no intention of curtailing its sales of weapons to Syria’s government. “Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Anatoly Antonov said.

Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution over the Syrian violence.

The UN says that over 7,500 people have been killed since government forces began their crackdown on pro-reform protests.

- Additional reporting by the AP

At least 45 women and children ‘massacred’ in Syria >

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