25 pdr guns of the 28th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery at El Alamein, 12 July 1942 – Creative Commons via Wikimedia
CAIRO – 8 May 2017: A motion was submitted to the parliament Monday to demand compensation for Egypt over millions of World War II mines in the Western Desert.
Proposed by Parliamentarian Mohamed Abdou, the motion argues that about 650,000 feddans of wheat in the Western Desert were destroyed as a result of some 22 million mines planted by the Axis and Allied forces.
Egypt did not take part in the war, but the Germans laid the deadly mines to stop the advancement of British troops, the motion explains.
A total of 8,313 people have been affected by the mines since 1982, including 696 deaths, according to the Foreign Ministry, in addition to many other unregistered cases and rendering arable land useless.
If not fatal, injuries have resulted in lost limbs since the Battle of Alamein in 1942. Egypt’s mines account for 20 per cent of the world’s active landmines, and Cairo fears they may be collected by extremists to carry out bombings.
The Egyptian Center for Mineaction and Sustainable Development, launched last January, targets the demining of 150,000 feddans to later develop them with infrastructure; 120,000 have already been cleared in the past years along the northwest coastline, according to the center.
“In view of the shortage in receiving assistances, if compared to the gravity of the problem, the Foreign Ministry developed the Egyptian stance towards the problem in order to reach a comprehensive presentation of the problem, where the focus will be on the developmental and humanitarian aspects,” the ministry says on its website.
“This developed stance will replace the approach that focuses only on the responsibility of the country that laid the mines towards clearing them… to encourage the countries which deny their responsibility towards laying mines on participating in funding such operations, through adopting the developmental approach, to facilitate investing in projects, where mine-clearing operations expenses are estimated in the feasibility studies.”