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A landmine is a type of mine: a device which is placed on the ground and explodes when triggered by a vehicle or person. Landmines are used to secure disputed borders and to restrict enemy movement in times of war. Because of this, and also because not all types are designed to be buried in the ground, and to avoid using the word landmine, they are sometimes called area denial munitions, serving a tactical purpose similar to barbed wire or concrete "dragon's teeth" vehicle barriers.

From a military perspective, land mines serve as force multipliers, allowing an organized force to overcome a larger enemy.


A landmine can be triggered by a number of things including pressure, movement, sound, magnetism and vibration. Anti-personnel mines commonly use the pressure of a person's foot as a trigger, but tripwire is also frequent. Most modern anti-vehicle mines use a magnetic trigger, to enable it to detonate even if the tyres or tracks did not touch it. Advanced mines are able to sense the difference between friendly and enemy types of vehicles by way of a built-in signature catalog. This will theoretically enable friendly forces to use the mined area while denying the enemy access.

Many mines combine the main trigger with a touch or tilt trigger, to prevent enemy engineers from defuzing it. Also, landmine designs tend to use as little metal as possible to make searching with a metal detector more difficult.

An antipersonnel mine that is used within a building or with some sort of psychological bait is called a booby trap.

Mines used by the U.S. Army and many other forces are designed to self-destruct after a period of weeks or months to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties at the conflict's end, though many mines laid historically have not.

Laying minefields

Minefields may be laid by several means. Mine-laying shells may be fired by artillery from a distance of several tens of kilometers, ejected from cruise missiles, or dropped from helicopters or airplanes. Armoured vehicles (AFVs) equipped to lay mines have also been built. However, if time allows, the preferred way is to place them into the ground by hand or with relatively simple tools, since this will make the mines practically invisible and reduce the number of mines needed to deny the enemy of an area.

Often anti-tank minefields are scattered with anti-personnel mines to make its clearing more difficult and time-consuming.

Efforts to ban anti-personnel mines

Anti-personnel landmines or APLs are widely considered to be ethically problematic weapons because their victims are commonly civilians, who are often maimed long after war activities have ceased. According to anti-landmine campaigners, in Cambodia alone, mines have resulted in 35,000 amputees after the cessation of hostilities. Removal of land mines is dangerous, slow and costly. Some countries maintain that landmines are necessary to protect their soldiers in war.

The use, production, stockpiling and trade in anti-personnel landmines was outlawed by the Ottawa Treaty in 1999 which was signed by 141 countries, of which 120 ratified it. The biggest countries not to sign the treaty were China, India, the USA and Russia. The U.S. government has said that it will join the Treaty in 2006, if alternatives to anti-personnel landmines are in place by then. The treaty was the result of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, launched in 1992, whose web site at has the treaty text and the complete list of signatories. The campaign won the Nobel peace prize in 1997 for its efforts.

The Ottawa Treaty does not include anti-tank mines and cluster bombs.


The legal export of anti-personnel landmines has ceased as of 1999. Anti-personnel landmines continue to be produced in the following countries:

Some have claimed that despite the 1999 ban, China and Russia have continued to mass-produce land mines for export around the world.

(see [1]).

The Soviet Union has been accused of using specifically designed mines looking like toys, to target children, in the conflict with Afghanistan. Some of the Soviet mines used were small, green, made from plastic and winged so that they could be deployed from planes, with the result that children often mistook them for toys, but others were allegedly manufactured of red and white plastic in the shape of toy trucks.

Unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs have also the danger of landmines; this is probably in some cases a design feature, intended to pin down the military force upon which they are dropped and discourage it from moving. Although they are not designed to be hidden, they may be, due to soft soil or vegetation. In addition, again, children could possibly mistake them for toys.

In World War I, landmines were used at the start of the battle of Passchendale.

Zhuge Liang, of the kingdom of Shu of China,was said to invent the first landmine of history, according to some sources.

Whether or not this is the case, the concept appeared independently in Europe in the early 18th Century. The French term fougasse is sometimes still applied to improvised land mines or booby traps constructed in the form of bombs buried in shallow wells in the earth and covered with scrap metal and/or gravel to serve as shrapnel. The technique was used in several European wars of the 18th Century, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War.

The first modern mechanically fuzed high explosive antipersonnel land mines were created in Germany, circa 1912, and were copied and manufactured by all major participants in the First World War. Well before the war was over, the British were manufacturing land mines that contained poison gas instead of explosives. Poison gas land mines were manufactured at least until the 1980s in the Soviet Union and the US was also known to have at least experimented with the concept in the 1950s.

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