Peace Time: The French Army Rescues The Sheep


November 17, 2007: In only a few weeks after France provided maps of minefields they laid down decades ago, Algerian mine clearing crews have removed thousands of additional mines. France delivered the maps on October 20th, but for October, the army was able to clear 4,779 mines. This was nearly twice what had been cleared in a month a year ago.

France provided Algeria with maps of where three million French mines were planted in the late 1950s. The 1,200 kilometers of mine fields were created to make it more difficult for Algerian rebels (against the French colonial government) moving across the Tunisian and Moroccan borders. Most of those mine fields are in remote areas, and have never been cleared. But each year, shepherds, and others moving along the border areas, are killed or injured by the mines, as are their animals. The mines in more traveled areas have been removed over the decades. But now, with the maps, the mines in remote areas can be cleared. That will be expensive, as the mines are now covered with more sand, or have shifted position because of rain and wind.

The mine maps were always an irritant in relations between the two countries, as France never offered to provide them before. Now, however, the French army sees an opportunity to improve its relationship with Algeria. Since the 1950s, the French army has been particularly hated by Algerians, because of the rough tactics used during the late 1950s and early 1960s, before France finally left and Algeria became independent. But over the decades, the hatred has died down.

So far, the Algerians have only removed 252,447 of the mines. Having the maps will speed up the process.


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