THE EXPLOSIVE THREAT IN KOSOVO
Even after more than two decades since the armed conflict in Kosovo ended, the Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) are still present in form of land mines and Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) which include the Bomb Live Units from Cluster Bombs Units and other types of Abandoned Explosive Ordnance (AXO). It is true that since 1999 the number of areas contaminated with ERW decreased from more than 3520 to 75 currently, but those "silent warriors" as a deminer would call them, are still there…
During the last 22 years, a number of 585 victims of ERW have been recorded in Kosovo with 168 injured and 117 fatalities.
In addition to ERW, the safe and secure environment in Kosovo is threatened by hostile or crime related use of conventional explosive ordnance as hand grenades or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Those attacks occur especially when the perpetrators have some "messages" to be delivered or, when some bank's money dispensers become attractive overnight.
"Explosives are never safe. But this can change!" says Lieutenant Colonel Ciprian "Chip" ANDRICA the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) coordinator and Explosives Safety and Munition Risk focal point at KFOR Headquarters in PRISTINA. Based on his long experience in Kosovo he has estimated that "the presence of Potential Explosion Sites generated by the legal storage and use of explosives by military, security and civil organizations Kosovo wide generate both safety and security risks which must be firmly and permanently addressed and mitigated". Referring to civil use of explosives, there are currently in Kosovo 20 legal Explosive Storage Facilities housing civil explosives used by blasting companies in underground mining industry, quarries and route construction sites. Only in above mentioned civil areas Kosovo registers an average of 1.8 blast operations per day which is by far a significant figure requiring strong safety and security measures during loading, transportation and use of explosives at blast site.
MITIGATING THE EXPLOSIVE THREAT
Inherent part of the force Fortunately, during the last two decades, international presence with strong and consistent KFOR support and in close cooperation and coordination with Institutions in Kosovo managed to set adequate mechanisms for controlling the environment in which explosives can be encountered and to mitigate the threat. A short list of mechanisms and activities aiming on increasing the level of safety and security in relation with explosive threat and in which KFOR has an important role includes Humanitarian Mine Action – the active approach to ERW problem, Explosive Ordnance Disposal response system – the reactive approach to explosive threats and monitoring the Civil Use of Explosives (CUE). For own ammo and explosives safety KFOR has established and runs its own Explosives Safety Program (ESP).
HMA or Humanitarian Demining (HD). Kosovo Mine Action Centre placed within Kosovo Security Force (KSF) HQ is responsible for planning, controlling and directing the activity of HD governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The most important governmental HD organization is the KSF Demining Coy from KSF Civil Protection Regiment (CPR) of Kosovo's National Guard.
The most important HD NGOs operating in Kosovo are the world wide very well-known HALO Trust with premises in GJAKOVA/DAKOVICA, Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) from MITROVICA and MAT-Kosovo Training Centre located in PEJA/PEC. While KSF runs own HD tasks and provides technical assistance to HALO Trust, KFOR provides technical assistance in terms of disposal of found UXO with own EOD Teams for NPA. During 2021 till the end of November, KSF has managed to clear a surface of 1,854,045 square meters and neutralised 630 mines and UXOs. HALO Trust and NPA have cleared a surface of 1.097,528 square metres containing 50 ERW.
Kosovo EOD Response System. The primary responders for EOD incidents or "calls" in support of local population and institutions are Kosovo Police (KP) and KSF. While KP with its local agents and its own IED Disposal Unit intervene for EOD incidents connected with crime related cases, KSF use own EOD teams for EOD incidents related to presence of ERW in civil areas. KFOR EOD intervene with own EOD Teams for own troops and mission's Force Protection and as 2nd responder in support of KP or KSF.
Having considered both own roles or mandate and capabilities, during the last years KFOR EOD Teams solved 10% of the reported EOD Incidents, most of them in North of Kosovo, KP Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Unit solved 20% while KSF EOD Teams solved the remaining 70%.
Monitoring the CUE. Responsible for permitting and supervision of explosives use for mining industry is Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals (ICMM), organization placed under Kosovo Assembly. The storage and use of explosives for civil purposes is permitted by Department for Public Safety (DPS) from Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) and supervised by its inspectors for weapons, ammo and explosives. COM KFOR through JENG Chief Explosive Threat Management (ETM) provides consent for any explosives movement (import or transfer). Any blast operation is pre-coordinated by JENG with J3 Air and after that the blast permits are issued by ICMM and/or DPS/MoIA. Joint inspections of any Potential Explosion Sites are regularly planned and executed by ICMM and DPS/MoIA inspectors with KFOR Chief ETM and KFOR EOD Teams. All these measures are set for ensuring a civil use of explosives in a safe and secure manner.
As a result of this mechanism functioning, no major incidents with civil explosives or uncontrolled detonations occurred in Kosovo during the last decade.
KFOR's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
Inherent part of the force, KFOR EOD units provide the unique capabilities and capacities which enable mobility and force protection. These capabilities include Explosive Ordnance (EO) identification, Conventional Munition Disposal including the disposal of KFOR expired ammo, Improvised Explosive Device Disposal etc. When required, KFOR EOD provide also support to local similar organizations.
Under JENG Chief ETM coordination, EOD units from Austria, Moldova , Switzerland, Ukraine and United States of America perform detecting, identifying, conducting on-site evaluation, rendering safe, exploiting and the final disposal of all explosive ordnance which by their presence negatively impact the safe and secure environment and freedom of movement.