US sending landmine team to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

The State Department on Sunday said it is sending a civilian team of landmine experts to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with “landmine-contaminated areas” affected by recent flooding.

“Heavy rains in the Balkans have caused widespread flooding that has led to the possible shifting and uncovering of some of the 120,000 landmines remaining from the 1992-1995 conflict associated with the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” the department said in a statement. “The flood waters also may have washed away many of the markers delineating the minefields.”

The department said local officials are beginning to map the most affected areas an inform residents about the “imminent danger” posed by mines and unexploded ordinance.

Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina estimate that 320 square kilometers of the flood zones are potentially contaminated by shifting mines or unexploded ordinance, the department added.

A landmine dislodged by the devastating floods near the town of Brcko in Bosnia and Herzegovina exploded underwater last week, the department said, but caused no damage or casualties.

The department said demining companies and the countries’ armed forces are well versed in regular operations, but they will be facing clearance operations in unfamiliar circumstances.

The U.S. team is expected to arrive Monday.