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An Anatomy of a Landmine Blast: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

11.1.1 – Number or proportion of housing or shelter damaged or destroyed by explosive weapons 

Case Study

No housing was damaged in the incident involving Faiqa’s family. However, in the region, there have been reports of landmines being left inside homes abandoned by Pashtun IDP.


When landmines are laid in and around housing they are extremely difficult to detect, particularly in conflict zones. Areas that have experienced shelling will have left rubble meters deep, thereby obscuring the landmines. Mines have also been laid on the roofs of houses to prevent opposition forces using them. Metal detectors are almost useless in residential situations due to the abundance of domestic waste, from drinks cans to mortar fragments. In one area in Kandahar, Afghanistan, deminers were finding 90 metal fragments per cubic meter of rubble.

Also, whilst not destroyed by their detonation, their presence in densely populated areas may make whole areas of housing uninhabitable. In Myanmar, more than 6,000 displaced villagers stated landmines as one of the main reasons they couldn’t return home.

Whilst in Syria and Iraq, as Islamic State (ISIS) were being defeated and fleeing areas, they left behind numerous landmines inside houses, schools, hospitals and mosques. Whilst conventional landmines have been used in this conflict, it is notable how ISIS have disguised improvised victim-activated devices as everyday objects in a domestic setting. Loaves of bread, teapots, fridges, vacuum cleaners and computers have all been rigged with enough explosives to bring down a building. Bomb-disposal teams have even “found dolls fitted with motion sensors, lights that explode when switched on and water taps that set off charges when opened”. 

“The first explosion killed our neighbour and his sister-in-law when they entered their house,” said Ali Hussain Omari, a former fighter from the city. “Three days later another mine killed my cousin. His 11-year-old daughter’s leg was amputated and their house was destroyed. A week later another mine in an olive tree exploded. My neighbour lost his leg.”

– A landmine victim from Manbij, northern Syria, interviewed in The Economist, 2017

“Landmines in Afghanistan / Mines antipersonnel en Afghanistan” by Canada in Afghanistan / Canada en Afghanistan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.) 

11.1.2 – Number or proportion of cultural property damaged or destroyed by explosive weapons

Case Study

There was no cultural property damaged or destroyed in the landmine explosion in Wacha Khwara. 


There is currently no comprehensive global source documenting damage to cultural property by explosive weapons. However, there have been examples of landmines laid inside mosques by retreating ISIS forces. For those seeking to do the maximum amount of harm, targeting venues of religious worship is effective since they have repeated, large, predictable foot traffic. 

Damage or contamination of landmines has been recorded at: 

  • Qasr al­ Yahud: one of Christianity’s holiest places. It is believed to be the site where Jesus was baptized, and over 670,000 pilgrims visit the area each year. Landmines left during the Six Day War in 1967 contaminated the area and prevented clergy from maintaining the building.
  • Ancient ruins of Palmyra: north-east of Damascus: statues that depicted polytheism were destroyed by ISIS fighters in 2015
  • Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia: Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure.  UNESCO reported that landmines have contributed to the degradation of the site.

11.1.3 – Number or proportion of service plants and installations damaged or destroyed by explosive weapons

Case Study

There were no service plants and installations damaged or destroyed in the landmine explosion in Wacha Khwara. 


There is currently no comprehensive global source documenting damage to service plants, disaggregated by explosive weapons. 

11.1.4 – Proportion of transport network damaged or destroyed by explosive weapons

Case Study

There was no damage to transport networks from the landmine explosion in Wacha Khwara.  However, in Pakistan routes for vehicles are often targeted with landmines. In one tragic incident 28 people were killed and seven injured when a trailer carrying a wedding party hit an anti-tank landmine. 


Landmines can have devastating effects on transport networks, especially on many remote locations that rely on one major route. In Afghanistan, for example, so many roads were restricted due to landmines that the Afghan government estimated a loss of more than US$26 million due to increased transportation costs and extended travel times. Additionally, major transport infrastructure projects, such as a railway line between Kabul and Mazar, were delayed due to landmine contamination.

Angola has suffered from road landmine contamination. Over two years, 2003-4, there were 36 civilians killed and 151 injured from roadside anti-vehicle landmines, according to the UNDP. Although since then there has been a major demining effort, clearing 108,925 km of road. 

“10.08.2005 – Cyprus Landmine and Ordnance Clearance” by United Nations Development Programme (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

11.2.1 – Number or proportion of key services disrupted, including water, wastewater and solid waste management, electricity, transport networks, and communications

Case Study

There were no key services disrupted from the landmine explosion in Wacha Khwara.


Urban services are complex and interconnected systems, meaning virtually no system can function without the others, directly or indirectly. 

In rural areas, landmine contamination has been recorded reducing access to clean water. When a path to fresh water is considered too heavily mined, populations will tend to divert towards unsafe drinking water, leading to increased risk of waterborne diseases, such as hepatitis, dysentery, and polio.

In Yemen, landmine contamination has led to humanitarian agencies being unable to deliver food and healthcare to vulnerable civilians in Houthi-controlled areas. Some of them, in turn, made vulnerable by landmines preventing them from harvesting crops or accessing drinking water. 


1 – Number or proportion of population displaced, disaggregated by gender and age

2 – Number of deaths, missing persons and persons affected by explosive weapons per 100,000 population, disaggregated by gender and age

Case Study

Over half a million Pashtun people were displaced from the region ahead of the 2009 Pakistani offensive against the Taliban. In 2016, many received a chit to return home. However, many have returned to a land now heavily contaminated. Such dangerous conditions created by landmines have undoubtedly kept many people away, maintained their displaced status. “If I’m assured that my home and my village has been de-mined, I’d be the first to return with my family,” 54-year old Mohammad Mumtaz Khan, who lost his foot to a landmine in his home, told Inter Press News in 2018. 


If we consider displaced people as a population in and of themselves, they are at heightened risk of landmine harm. Landmines or IEDs are known to have been laid on migration routes in the Sahel and the Chad Basin. 

Furthermore, in Syria it was reported that regime-affiliated forces deliberately mined an area used by civilians fleeing the violence, between Deir Ezzour and Al Hasaka. A report by Justice for Life found that from January 1st, 2016, until September 30th, 2017, that 99 civilians were killed by landmines, including 11 women and 29 children. 

In Europe, refugees crossing through the Balkans were forced to re-route through contaminated land in Croatia when Hungary closed its border with Serbia. In March 2021, a migrant was killed and several others injured, after a Balkans’ War landmine was activated near the border with Bosnia.

Report continues:

Chapter 5: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Chapter 6: SDG 4 – Quality Education
Chapter 7: Other Considerations
Conclusion and Recommendations