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In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's forces are planting landmines in battlegrounds across the country. From the eastern town of Brega to the western mountains, mines are causing many casualties. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in the western mountains with rebel forces.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: On the barren front line in the village of Gualish, rebels are taking cover from Gadhafi forces and the relentless sun behind a sand berm.�
RAJED: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rajed, a rebel fighter at the front, points to the south of Gualish and says they have just discovered a new minefield.�
RAJED: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All this area is now mined, Rajed says. It's terrible and that's what's stopping our advance right now.�
Rebels commanders say mines, both anti-tank and anti-personnel, are being increasingly used in this conflict - a sign they say that Gadhafi's forces are becoming more desperate and weakening.�
They are effective though. The fields have to be avoided or cleared before rebel forces can move through. In the eastern battlefront in Brega, mines have also impeded a speedy rebel advance. And here in the west, more and more of them are being uncovered everyday.�
In the silence of a bucolic pine forest, a group of men kneel down to pray. They are the rebel demining team in Zintan. Even with the best equipment, finding and diffusing mines is perilous work. The equipment here though is minimal - two sticks and an old metal detector.�
But these men don't even really use that. They simply walk into the minefield and look for displaced earth. When they spot a suspected mine they kneel down and proceed to dig it up with their bare hands. The mines here are small and tan colored, hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for. There are an astounding number of them.
Just in the last 10 minutes in a stretch of about 75 feet of road, the men here have found 30 to 40 mines. Some have plastic explosives packed on top of it, enough to disable a tank.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, these mines are Brazilian-made TAB-1 anti-personnel mines. They have a low metal content, which make them difficult to detect. Gadhafi's forces have also laid anti-tank mines in the western mountains, the report says.�
Mr. MILAD SAADI: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Milad Saadi heads the demining team. He dealt with mines in Gadhafi's army before he defected to the rebels, which is how he knows how to diffuse them.�
We don't have enough people or equipment, though, he says, to deal with them all. He says the only way they are locating the minefields these days is when a rebel vehicle runs through them and someone gets hurt.
Dr. OMAR SULIEMAN: He has fracture in the last metacarpal in the foot and he has dislocation in the arm by the clavicle. It's serious. He need today make operation maybe.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dr. Omar Suleiman(ph) points to his patient. This is only the latest mine victim to be treated at this hospital. Farhad is lucky. He survived running over the mine outside Gualish.�
FARHAD: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says he doesn't remember anything after the explosion. It knocked him out cold, Farhad says.
Back in the minefield, the men have made a discovery.�
Mr. ABDUL HAKIM: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Deminer Abdul Hakim holds two huge blocks of plastic explosives in his hand - about 16 pounds worth. It was placed around one of the mines. If it had detonated it would've caused serious damage. His fear is that they won't find all the mines and when this place is no longer a battle zone, civilians will get hurt.�
Mr. HAKIM: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says, this is a place where farmers work and families come to picnic. Now this area is ruined, he says. No one can ever come here again.�
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR NEWS in the western mountains.�
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