(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Libyan forces are assisting a group of military engineers to dismantle bombs and mines left behind by ISIS fighters in recently liberated areas of Sirte.
The engineers gathered old 155mm ammunition, which were heavily used by ISIS, attached to random household objects such as window fastenings and door handles.
Small missiles, detonation devices, shells and mortar grenade heads, in addition to ammunition, handmade suicide belts and bombs hidden in different parts of the recently liberated neighbourhoods made the process of clearing the areas more challenging for the Libyan fighters and engineers.
The “suicide belts are filled with some kind of handmade explosive but we don’t actually know what it even is. We have never even seen this type of stuff before,” said Commander Mohammed Torjiman. “Once the grenade pin is pulled, these belts detonate within six seconds.”
So far, 5,000 improvised explosive devices (IED), booby-traps, mines and other explosives, have been removed from Sirte by the military engineer team. And this week, close to 10 tonnes of explosives were detonated in a controlled environment. The Libyan team did not rely on any international group for assistance in this process.
On Sunday, the engineers inserted semtex in the tip of shells and ran cables connecting two piles of explosives that were buried under the desert sand to minimize the explosion. The team then drove a half a kilometre before detonating the bombs remotely.
Torjiman, who was overseeing the operation, said “this is the fourth major controlled explosion we have conducted since the fight against IS began four months ago and, containing over 200 munitions, this is our biggest yet.”
“We have deactivated over 5,000 IEDs and mines in the last four months and this explosion is a moment of satisfaction because, by destroying these items, we know we have saved lives.”
Torjiman’s team is one of three teams who are working to rehabilitate Sirte by removing all explosives.
“Every day Daesh (ISIS) has a new technique or a new technical strategy, probably from training in Syria and Iraq, which has been very difficult for us,” said Torjiman. “They are mainly using chemicals in their IEDs now, including mercury to activate explosions, and these can be very difficult for us to detect and deactivate.”
Torjiman said that the IED devices have possibly claimed 70 to 80 percent of the 520 Libyan soldiers fighting in Sirte since the beginning of the offensive launched by the Libyan forces in May.