Dead Camel Mark Of Landscape Forever Changed By War
Jul. 03, 1991
IN THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE (AP) _ The dead camel's head is thrown back, its mouth agape. The silent scream and shattered rib cage testify to an agonizing death in Iraqi minefields that were once a menacing hurdle for allied troops.
Sappers, soldiers who find and destroy explosives, say Kuwait will never be the same again. Both the city and desert are still loaded with guns and unexploded mines.
Tuesday was the last day for citizens to turn in guns or face up to 15 years in jail. In Kuwait City, an army munitions team spent the morning blowing up cluster bombs found in an empty lot.
The Canadian Army's 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, part of the U.N. observers, was given the task of clearing routes through the demilitarized zone, which extends three miles into Kuwait and six miles into Iraq.
''This whole country is saturated,'' said Sgt. Edward Ingleby, 30, estimating it will take five years to get rid of the obvious minefields.
''The area will never be totally safe,'' the Canadian added.
Elsewhere, Kuwait will hire others to do the work. Persian Gulf news reports said Tuesday that Pakistan was on the verge of signing a $100 million contract to clear 3,800 square miles in the 6,800-square-mile country.
In Kuwait City, Interior Minister Sheik Ahmed Al-Hamoud al-Sabah said a task force was being assembled to make house-to-house searches for weapons not turned in by Tuesday's deadline. All guns are now illegal.
Many Kuwaitis, still insecure about Saddam's intentions and the lack of a strong Kuwaiti military, have vowed to keep their guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Guns are a popular black market item. An arms bazaar has sprung up on the Iraqi side of the demilitarized zone. Bedouin smugglers come from Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia to trade.
The smugglers ignore the danger from mines as they hurtle across the desert in their vehicles. One Iraqi was reported killed after a bomb blew off his leg last month.
''They're just off on their own. That's why a lot of them get hurt,'' said Capt. Joe Gale, 27, of Canada.
The Canadians estimate there are still 750,000 unexploded mines in the desert, many of them laid by the Iraqis.
But the greatest threat comes from hundreds of thousands of cluster bomblets that came from allied bombs, rockets and artillery.
About 20 percent are duds and the rest did not explode because they fell on soft sand. They are light enough to be blown around by the wind and easily covered by sand.
Temperatures that soar to 140 degrees detonate some unstable munitions in a process called ''cooking off.''
The Canadian sappers find the job exciting. None have been injured.
''It's the adrenalin that flows through your body,'' said Tim Hills, 23. ''You are so close to death when you're handling this stuff. It strains your nerves, gives you that electric high feeling.''
The mines come in a variety of shapes and sizes - rockeyes that look like bloated darts, small steel baseballs that are officially known as BLU-26 fragmentation mines.
The sappers place long strings of charges next to the mines, setting off up to 20 at a time. On a good day they get 100.
The Canadian regiment from Chilliwack, British Columbia, was sent in April for six months. It is not responsible for clearing the minefields along Kuwait's borders with both Saudi and Iraq, where Iraq's military thought the main allied thrust would come.
Ultimately the allies went around the end. But hundreds of miles of barbed wire and mines stretch to both horizons, catching mostly sheep, goats and camels.