HALO continues to clear hundreds of NATO cluster bombs in Kosovo

More than 5,100 days after the end of NATO Bombing in Kosovo, HALO Continues to Clear Hundreds of NATO Cluster Bombs

NATO’s 1999 bombing of key Yugoslav positions and infrastructure in Kosovo lasted for just 78 days and yet, more than 5,100 days since the end of the bombing, the HALO Trust is still finding hundreds of cluster bombs on land around villages and on farmland with teams funded by the Swiss and Belgian governments.

A dense cluster bomb strike is currently being cleared at Jasic, near the municipal town of Junik, in western Kosovo. In the last few months, in an area of less than 1.5 hectares, HALO’s team has cleared 171 NATO-dropped BLU-97 cluster munitions. In recent years HALO has also cleared more than 10 hectares of neighbouring farmland of cluster munitions. Each cluster munition presents a significant danger to the local population as it is a particularly sensitive cluster munition with a high explosive content and a lethal fragmentation jacket; most accidents in which it is involved are fatal.

The land would be used by the local people for woodcutting for winter fuel but cutting trees is a particularly hazardous activity in such a strike. Clearance is slow in this densely contaminated area but HALO expects to complete clearance by early autumn 2013, in time for the gathering of wood for the winter.

HALO is currently conducting, in conjunction with the Kosovo Mine Action Centre and also funded by the Swiss Government, a complete resurvey of all areas potentially contaminated with landmines and cluster munitions in Kosovo. The survey will provide the Government of Kosovo and potential donors with a clear basis on which to plan a mine and cluster munition free Kosovo. With 53% of the survey complete 78 minefields and cluster munition strikes in need of clearance have been confirmed so far.

However, with most donor governments having abandoned mine action in Kosovo, the country’s rural poor face the prospect of another decade of living with mines and cluster munitions unless additional funds become available.