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Land mines hamper Libyan rebels' progress

July 27, 2011 at 10:09 AM   |   Comments

TRIPOLI, Libya, July 27 (UPI) -- Libyan rebels say they're finding thousands of land mines in civilian areas as they press toward the country's capital city of Tripoli.

The number of mines found and deactivated by the rebels has swollen from hundreds to thousands as the fighters move into towns abandoned by troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

"Stick around, we will find a thousand in this field today," Bashir Ghourish, a member of a team searching for land mines buried by Gadhafi forces near Kiklah, told the Post.

A NATO official said the military alliance "has witnessed an increase in indiscriminate mining and the escalating use of force by pro-Gadhafi forces" in Brega and the western mountains.

Rebel commanders in the western mountains said they witnessed Gadhafi troops lacing the ground with mines around towns near the Tunisian border.

"It feels like there are reports of new [mine] fields every week now," said Sidney Kwiram, a consultant for Human Rights Watch in Libya.

"In each of the front lines we have visited around the country, the Gadhafi forces have used land mines near their troop positions," Kwiram told the Post. "These minefields may be flanking troop positions one day, but the next day they are the reason that civilians cannot return home."

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