The North African battlefields still have an estimated 17 million mines buried beneath the sands, especially in Egypt, where the Nazi Africa Korps fought Britain’s 8th Army – including the legendary Second Battle of El Alamein, which turned the tide for the Allies on the continent.
Egypt even has a government minister dedicated to mine clearance. He has said more than 150 Bedouins have reported injuries and deaths from the mines since 2006. The dangerous areas also extend into modern-day Libya, where ISIS has a significant presence.
Now, the Egyptian government says ISIS (and likely other groups) are digging up the old ordnance to use for improvised explosive devices and other weapons. Security has devolved since 2004, when the first attack using these relics killed 34 people in the resort town of Taba.
The most recent attack occurred on a road near the Red Sea in March and killed five members of Egyptian security forces.
In Syria, rebels and ISIS forces are using whatever weapons are available. A Syrian rebel faction called the “al-Tawhid Brigade” stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles. Another video posted to Facebook in April 2016 shows rebels using German Wehrmacht artillery.
Newsweek also reports insurgents using the minefields as a safe haven from government security forces who will avoid the hazardous areas at all cost. All jihadis have to do is hire a local guide who knows the route in and out, making travel for anyone – from the Egyptian Army to foreign tourists – an uninviting thought.
It’s a troubling prospect for a country whose tourism revenues account for an estimated 11 percent of its GDP.
The best solution, according to Ahmed Amer, head of the Land Mine Survivors Association, is for the World War II combatants to come pick up their toys.
“They can’t just come here and then go away,” he told Newsweek. “They must clean this up.”