Precursors of the weapon are said to have first been used in the American Civil War in the s. But antipersonnel mines were first used on a wide scale in World War II. Since then they have been used in many conflicts, including in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the first Gulf War. During the Cold War, many states laid long stretches of landmines along borders. Antipersonnel mines were initially developed to protect antitank mines and stop them being removed by enemy soldiers. They were used defensively, to protect strategic areas such as borders, camps, or important bridges and to restrict the movement of opposing forces.
A key characteristic of the weapon is that it is designed to maim rather than kill an enemy soldier.
This follows the "logic" that more resources are taken up caring for an injured soldier on the battlefield than dealing with a soldier who has been killed. Over time, antipersonnel landmines began to be deployed on a wider scale, often in internal conflicts and specifically targeting civilians. They were used to terrorize communities, deny access to farming land, and restrict population movement.
War and landmines in Angola
The practice of marking and mapping minefields was no longer followed strictly. Indeed, many combatants no longer laid mines in a contained area, but placed them around a variety of strategic areas without any specific pattern. As a result, civilians, peacekeepers, aid workers, and soldiers alike had no way of knowing if they entered a mined area.
Rain, floods, and other factors have also shifted minefields over time. So without clear records, and with the impacts of weather and time, clearing up the mess after a conflict became even harder. Technological developments saw the production of systems for delivering mines from the air. These were then used in much larger numbers and mapping and marking became almost impossible.
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