June 11, 2009: Despite several years of mine clearing efforts in northern and southern Iraq, the government has called for international assistance to clear some fifty million mines and unexploded weapons (or UXO; bombs, shells, grenades) that are still found in parts of the country that, until quite recently, were too dangerous for demining efforts. The Islamic terrorists were hostile to mine clearing teams (and anything else that made people feel better), so they have generally stayed out of central Iraq since 2003. Meanwhile, most Saddam era landmines in the Kurdish north, and Shia south, have been cleared.
The new clearing effort in central Iraq will include the Iranian border, and many former terrorist strongholds, where booby traps, roadside bombs and landmines were abandoned by terrorists who either fled, or were killed. The government has hired twenty companies to clear all this dangerous stuff. There are currently 2,000 people involved in mine and UXO clearance. Millions of these items have already been removed, by Iraqi and foreign troops, as well as civilian clearing teams. But Iraq wants to get 20,000 people working on the project, in order to clear the most dangerous (near where people live) half of the fifty million items within the next ten years.
Most of these items were placed by Iraqis, either security forces working for Saddam, or Sunni Arab terrorists who continued to fight after 2003.