What are landmines?
Landmines are munitions or explosive weapons, normally encased,
and designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or
other surface area (like a road) and to be exploded by the
presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle.
What are the military uses or purposes of landmines?
These include but are not limited to the following offensive
and defensive purposes: destroying personnel and vehicles,
denying the enemy an area, channeling the enemy's movements,
slowing an advance, perimeter defense, and psychological or
demoralizing effects (of uncertain danger with every step,
and of the landmine injuries which shatter leg and feet bones
usually requiring amputation).
What are the types of landmines?
For the Philippine context, these are the most relevant
1. According to target: a) anti-personnel mine (APM); b) anti-vehicle-mine
2. According to mode of detonation: a) victim-activated; b)
3. According to production process: a) conventional (industrially
manufactured); b) improvised
What distinguishes an APM from an AVM?
Aside from the obvious distinction as to target, there is
a corresponding difference in the corresponding amount of
explosive charge and also of weight or pressure required to
detonate it in the case of a victim-activated mine. For conventional
victim-activated APMs, a pressure force of 20 to 35 pounds
is sufficient to detonate it, with an explosive charge of
even just a few ounces -- enough to incapacitate, injure or
kill persons. For conventional victim-activated AVMs, the
pressure force required is from 350 to 750 pounds, and the
explosive charge is usually 22 pounds -- enough to disable
tanks and other armored vehicles. Of course, AVMs often also
disable the personnel on board those vehicles as incidental
or collateral targets or victims.
What is the importance of the distinction between victim-activated
and command-detonated landmines?
Victim-activated landmines are inherently indiscriminate,
they may victimize both combatants and civilians, both military
and civilian vehicles. They may be inadvertently triggered
by anybody or anything who/which trips its tripwire or places
the requisite weight/pressure on it.
Sometimes, in the international arena, the term "anti-personnel
mines" (APMs) is used to mean only victim-activated anti-personnel
mines. But there are APMs, like Claymore mines, which are
also command-detonated. Thus, for overall clarity, it is best
to qualify APMs as either victim-activated or command-detonated
or both. It is the victim-activated APMs which are the most
pernicious in their direct human impact.
Command-detonated landmines are presumably discriminate in
that they are detonated only against legitimate military targets.
Command-detonation requires a person to be present, observing
the landmine emplacement and manually detonating it, usually
electrically, upon the approach of a mobile military target
(whether person or vehicle) close to the emplacement. This
allows for total control over the landmine, its use and effects,
unlike the victim-activated ones which are unobserved and
left behind "to whom it may concern."
What about media reports of military vehicles which "hit"
landmines on the road?
That could be misleading, especially as regards ambushes
conducted by the New People's Army (NPA). NPA use of landmines
against military or police vehicles, per field verification
and even military/police reports, invariably involve improvised
command-detonated AVMs. In these cases, it would be more accurate
for the media to report or say that a landmine hit the military
vehicle (connoting command-detonation) rather than the military
vehicle hit a landmine (connoting victim-activation). Or better
still, to say that the NPA detonated a landmine against the
military vehicle. The best evidence of command-detonation
is the recovery of remnant electric detonating cords from
the scene of the landmine incident, as is often reflected
in military or police reports.
Are improvised landmines also considered as landmines, thus
subject to the same rules? What about improvised explosive
Yes, improvised landmines are also landmines, the only difference
being in the process or mode of production. IEDs produced
by adapting other munitions (like a mortar shell) to function
as landmines are also to be treated as landmines, at least
as far as the applicable rules are concerned. On the other
hand, IEDs which are made like time bombs, like those used
in a number of terrorist bombing incidents in public places
in Mindanao, are not considered as landmines.
What are Claymore mines?
A Claymore mine is a U.S.-designed (M18A1) directional APM
which can be used in both victim-activated (trip-wire with
pull firing device) or command-detonated mode (electric firing
device with detonating cords). Its main external physical
feature is a concave-shaped casing with "front toward
enemy" so as to give direction to 700 small steel balls
in a fan-shaped sheaf pattern projected in a 60 degree arc
covering a casualty area of 50 meters. The Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) used to have U.S.-made Claymore mines
in its inventory but these were reportedly all disposed of
in 1998. The NPA in recent years has extensively produced
and used improvised Claymore mines in command-detonated mode,
using scrap metal as shrapnel in lieu of steel balls.