Planted to kill: A brief history of landmines

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The first recorded use of an explosive device was by the Song Dynasty to fend off invading Mongolians in 13th-century China. In 16th-century Italy, so-called  “fourgasses” were used in battlefields – cannons were buried in the soil and detonated to spread soil, rocks and rubble on soldiers passing nearby.

During the American Civil War, General Gabriel Rains designed the first modern landmine to defend his outnumbered troops, leading to the first landmine-caused mass casualty in history.

Germany then revised Rains’ design in the years before World War I and developed the earliest version of an anti-tank mine in 1929. This technology was quickly copied by militaries around the world and was used to target opposing forces and defend borders.

Today, the use of anti-personnel mines is banned in 164 countries under the United Nations Mine Ban Treaty (also known as the Ottawa Treaty), but despite this, mines continue to disproportionately disrupt civilian lives.

Initially designed to maim opposing military forces, these weapons are now being used by the Houthi regime to cause terror, displacement, injury, and even death among Yemeni locals.

Since their inception, mines have been used as a tool by militaries and while they can have devastating effects when used against anyone, they were never intended to target civilians.