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NATO mine hunting exercise finds WWI, WWII mines in Latvian strait

NATO mine hunting exercise finds WWI, WWII mines in Latvian strait
Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1, with the navies of five Baltic countries, found and neutralized 32 vintage mines in Latvia's Irbe Strait last week. Photo courtesy of NATO

May 18 (UPI) -- NATO announced Monday that a multinational project, underway in Latvia's Irbe Strait, removed or neutralized 32 mines from the seabed.

The 10-day "Open Spirit" exercise, which NATO said concluded last week, involved Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 and the navies of Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands -- all NATO countries comprising the Baltic Naval Squadron.

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The task force investigated 642 mine-like objects in a 25-square nautical mile section of the strait, which separates Latvian islands from the mainland and connects the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga.

Mines from World War I and World War II were discovered, officials said.

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"The Baltic Sea is of high strategic importance for NATO and its partner nations, and therefore also a highly prioritized area of operation," Henning Knudsen-Hauge, CNMCMG1 commander, said in a statement. "Once again close cooperation between NATO and the Baltic Naval Squadron gives results. The high numbers of mines identified and countermined, even 75 years after the war, says something about the expertise and professionalism within our task group."

The command of the annual exercise is rotated between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Latvian Navy led the exercise this year. The mission involved seven minehunting vessels and four Latvian navy ships.

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