Egypt’s Western Desert remains littered with mines and unexploded munitions, the deadly remnants of heavy fighting during the Second World War.
The Egyptian armed forces estimate around 20 million mines and unexploded bombs are still buried in the sand and the munitions pose a significant threat to local communities.
The EU is now involved assisting the Egyptian government and others with the clean-up.
EU representative in Egypt James Moran said: “It is helping to take responsibility, not just for the development of Egypt, but also an historical responsibility by the combatants in the Second World War to do everything we can to help the country to fully recover.”
The bulk of the unexploded ordnance is in and around the town of El Alamein, which was the scene of two major battles between Allied and Axis forces in 1942.
Wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill famously said of the victory at El Alamein “This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Still the town remains under threat, as John Casson, the British Ambassador in Cairo, stressed: “The British government takes the issue of mine clearance very seriously. The mines here in El Alamein and Matrouh City are a deadly legacy from the Second World War and they are still killing people. I am optimistic for the future and hopefully with this partnership, we can start to solve the problem.”
According to UN figures over 8,000 people have been killed or injured by the explosives and thousands of square kilometres of Egyptian territory remain off limits.
The euronews correspondent in the Western Desert, Mohammed Shaikhibrahim reported: “Despite the end of the Second World War the mines remain and the fatalities continue. These munitions are proving an obstacle to the development of large tracts of Egyptian land.”