Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Death Illustrates Issues With Loose Weapons Stockpiles in Libya

The New York Times  June 13, 2012

The death of an Estonian explosive ordnance disposal technician in Libya this spring illustrates the continuing problem of loose weapons stockpiles almost a year after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was driven from power.

The technician, Kaido Keerdo, died in March while examining unexploded munitions scattered near a police compound and checkpoint in Ad Dafniyah as part of his work for the nongovernmental group Danish Church Aid.

The checkpoint had been fought over by rival Libyan militias three nights before. The groups were quarreling over access to 22 shipping containers of Qaddafi-era munitions, according to the aid group’s investigation, the findings of which were described this week to The New York Times.

One of the containers was struck during the fighting and caught fire. The explosion that followed ruptured at least 11 containers, heaving into the air a poorly stored collection of grenades, rockets and mortar rounds, some of which landed almost 500 yards away.

The munitions, once seen by Libya’s armed groups as instruments for breaking free from internal repression and making the country safe, were then scattered near houses, a mosque and a school along Libya’s main coastal road. The inadequately trained militias and ad hoc police officers had stored rockets and shells with fuzes inserted, a configuration that compounded their dangers.

Among this refuse were 122-millimeter rockets containing Type 84 land mines, one of the most volatile weapons in Libya’s prewar stocks. Mr. Keerdo, a demining team leader, was surveying the police compound and apparently knelt near one of these rockets. At least one mine exploded, killing him instantly.

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June 15, 2012 Posted by | Bomb Disposal, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Demining, ERW, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Libya, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations, UXO | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplanned explosions at munitions dumps increasing

Countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability

IRIN  Africa Humanitarian News and Analysis  December 5, 2011

JOHANNESBURG, 5 December 2011 (IRIN) – The rate of accidents at munitions storage sites has risen to unprecedented levels in 2011, despite a growing international commitment to assist countries in managing their weapons and ammunition stockpiles.

“During the first ten months of 2011, the average number of explosions has increased to more than three per month – the highest rate recorded in a calendar year,” said the Small Arms Survey (SAS), a Geneva-based NGO monitoring small arms and armed violence.

“It is unclear whether the problem is getting worse or reporting of incidents is improving. What is clear is that the number of explosions is not decreasing despite efforts to address their causes.”

Nearly all countries have one or more facilities for the storage of weapons and ammunition, which require constant surveillance by a technically skilled workforce, careful monitoring of the humidity and temperature levels of the stockpile, and the safe disposal of ammunition that has reached its “sell-by date”.

''Countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability''

Pilar Reina, an SAS researcher, told IRIN that “countries tend to consider surplus of ammunition as an asset rather than a liability, and, among other reasons, very often this explains why they do not prioritise Physical Security and Stockpile Management [PSSM].”

Apart from better reporting of incidents, she cited three possible reasons for the increase in Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS): aging ammunition, some of which dates back to the First World War; the dearth of technical and stockpile management expertise; which contribute to the failure to destroy unstable munitions stocks.

The first edition of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG), published by the United Nations on 1 October 2011, acknowledges that “in almost all post-conflict environments, and in many developing countries, a physical risk exists to individuals and communities from the presence of abandoned, damaged or inappropriately stored and managed stockpiles of ammunition and explosives.”

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December 5, 2011 Posted by | Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War | , , , , , | Leave a comment