Nagorno Karabakh

History of Minelaying and Cluster Munition Bombing

Minelaying in Nagorno Karabakh, by both Azeri and pro-Karabakhi forces, took place during the 1992-1994 war.

A combination of anti-personnel (AP), anti-tank (AT) and anti-group (AG) mines was used to protect positions and deny freedom of movement. Due to the fluid nature of the conflict, certain areas of Nagorno Karabakh were mined several times by both sides. The mines laid were exclusively of Soviet design and manufacture.

Tens of thousands of cluster munitions were also dropped from the air by Azerbaijani forces.

The Solution

Since 2000 HALO has provided the sole capacity in Nagorno Karabakh for the clearance of mines and cluster munitions and the disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Additionally HALO has established a Mine Action Centre (MAC) to collate all information concerning mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and safe routes, and to disseminate it to all stakeholders and other actors as requested.

HALO Nagorno Karabakh has, to date, returned over 270 km² of contaminated land to previously impacted communities, during which over 67,000 landmines, cluster munitions and other items of unexploded ordnance have been safely located and destroyed. At its peak HALO’s program employed 280 Karabakhi staff but this has shrunk in recent years to 140 as finding funding has become more difficult. If the people of Nagorno Karabakh are to be able to live lives free of mines and cluster munitions then staff numbers need to be restored to their peak as quickly as possible.

The program in Nagorno Karabakh conducts both manual and mechanical clearance of minefields. Cluster munition strikes are cleared by HALO’s Battle Area Clearance (BAC) teams whilst other items of UXO are cleared by HALO’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams. HALO’s program is complemented by Survey and Mines Risk Education (MRE) teams, with MRE fully incorporated into the school curriculum. The program is managed by one expatriate, while all other senior management positions are filled by locally recruited and trained staff: as with all other HALO programs the policy is to build a substantial local capacity that can deal with the problem.

Requirement for Continued Clearance

HALO is the only mineclearance organization operating in Nagorno Karabakh and development, reconstruction, resettlement, and other humanitarian aid is dependent on the continuation of mineclearance. Continuation of mineclearance is also essential to reduce the number of accidents caused by mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from its current per capita rate amongst the highest in the world.

Program management - Senior staff

Nick Smart

Nagorno Karabakh Program Manager

Nick has worked for HALO since 2008. After initial training in Sri Lanka, Somaliland and Mozambique, he was Program Operations Manager in Georgia and Deputy Program Manager in Angola.  He is currently the Program Manager for Nagorno Karabakh.  Nick has a degree in History, Politics and American studies.