Saturday, November 7, 2009
What I know about landmines
Landmines come in all shapes and sizes - heavy flat discs, little squat things that look like gray beets. They used to be made of metal, but to get around metal detectors people began building them out of plastic, which makes them basically unfindable.
Except by feet, that is.
The worst thing about mines is that they are built to last, as in for decades. So you fight a war, lay mines around your borders or other valuables sites, and when the conflict is over... well, you were so busy fighting you can't remember where you put them.
But people, especially kids, have this penchant for walking around and exploring. And the vast majority of landmine attacks hurt civilians. Often they don't kill - they just blow off a leg or two.
For this reason, they have been considered a scourge against humanity and are are campaigned against by the Nobel Peace Prize Winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
I've also seen them in person during our "Reporting in Dangerous Areas" journalism excursion, where we learned about weapons and CPR from former British mercenaries (yes, it kicked ass).
All this info is lead-up to this story: It is possible to actually safely locate a landmine with nothing more than a pointy stick and a lot of guts.
If you think you are in the middle of a minefield, you can get safely out (with some luck) by inserting the stick into the ground slowly at a 45 degree angle. If there is a mine in front of you, you will hit the base and not the trigger. You can therefore advance, inch by inch, through dangerous territory.
Now I'd never want to do this, ever. If I found a mine and got around it even once, I would think I was divinely blessed or something. But this guy did it (and does it) thousands and thousands of times, and has cleared entire miles of land by himself.
His name is Aki Ra.