UK Announces £5m Extra Funding To Help Clear Explosives In Iraq

The £5 million funding will support projects to clear explosives from key areas such as schools.

An additional £5 million will be given to the United Nations to help clear Islamic State (IS) explosives in Iraq, the Department for International Development (DFID) has announced.

The finding will be given to the United Nations Mine Action Service, in addition to the £24.9 million the UK has already contributed to demining projects in Iraq since 2015.

The new cash injection will support UK-funded demining projects to clear explosives from key areas such as schools, hospitals and roads.

DFID spokesman James Purcell told Forces News: "The UK is fortunate enough to be home to some of the largest landmine clearance NGOs in the world and their expertise is helping to clear these very risky, very dangerous items from the land and return it to public use. 

Explosives seized near a playground in Iraq (Picture: UNMAS).
Explosives seized near a playground in Iraq (Picture: UNMAS).

More than one million Iraqis returned home in 2018 after their lives were devastated by IS since the beginning of the crisis in 2013.

However, 1.8 million people remain displaced, partly due to IS (also known as Daesh), explosives making homes and local infrastructure unsafe. 

Mr Purcell added that the new funding will "go some way" in supporting Iraqis to "return home".

Last year alone, 16,500 explosives, 800 suicide belts and 2,000 explosive traps were all cleared from the country with support from UK aid.

The funding will support six explosive clearance teams across the country's Sinjar Province, an area notoriously impacted by IS occupation.

500lb bomb in Mosul (Picture: UNMAS).
500lb bomb in Mosul (Picture: UNMAS).

The area is also historically home to a large Yazidi population who have been displaced in their thousands since the start of the conflict.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "Daesh's sickening use of explosive traps continues to threaten children in their schools, mothers in hospitals and thousands of innocent people trying to return to a normal life.

"Thanks to this UK aid funded work, people can return to work, children can go back to school and lives are slowly being rebuilt.

"The UK is a world leader in demining. I believe the UK public supports this work and can very clearly see its impact in changing and saving lives."

UK aid-funded explosive teams have cleared key sites in the country, such as a school in Fallujah which was rigged with 13 live improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The school was attended by 450 children.

The British-built New Bridge, the only connection between Fallujah and Baghdad, was successfully demined of 44 IEDs and 400kg of explosives.

Op Shader: RAF Launch Airstrikes In Northern Iraq
The RAF has been conducting airstrikes on IS as part of Op Shader since September 2014 (Picture: MOD).

In 2018, support from DFID also helped educate more than 400,000 people on the risks of unexploded devices, including how to act if they came across one.

Britain has been targeting IS fighters in countries like Iraq for more than four years as part of Operation Shader - the UK's contribution to the fight on Daesh.

In November 2018, Forces News reported that the RAF has conducted 1700 airstrikes on Daesh since September 2014.