PALMYRA (Syria), April 1. /TASS/. Engineer units of the Syrian army need Russian sappers’ assistance in the mine clearing operation in the ancient city of Palmyra, Lieutenant Qassen Shpib of the Syrian engineer troops engaged in demining efforts told reporters on Friday.
"We have already gained experience, but now we are facing a major problem - the clearance of houses and apartments, where the militants have left suicide bomber’s belts and explosives. We are awaiting assistance from our Russian colleagues to deal with it," Shpib said.
He added that 1,230 mines have been rendered harmless in the city by the moment, which is only half of the approximate number of explosive devices in the city. The sapper also spoke about the difficulties the Syrian military have had to face in the course of the mine clearance operation.
"The entry to the city is completely mined, which is unexpected for us. The terrorists dug holes in the asphalt, laid mines in them, and then covered them with concrete. We have had to blow all this up. There were also mines set off by the militants remotely", he said.
Experts of two groups of a joint detachment of the Russian Armed Forces’ international anti-mine center were dispatched to Syria on March 30 and 31 to participate in humanitarian demining of infrastructure facilities and the historical part of the city of Palmyra. According to preliminary estimates, the Russian experts will have to clear of mines more than 180 hectares in Palmyra.
"The detachment’s units were airlifted (to Syria) by the Antonov An-124 Ruslan and Ilyushin Il-76 planes of the Military Transport Aviation," the Russian Defense Ministry said. According to the ministry, the detachment is furnished with the most advanced mine clearing and protective equipment. In addition to sappers, the detachment includes mine detection dog handlers. During the mine clearing operation the Russian experts will also use the Uran-6 robots.
Previously, a military-diplomatic source told TASS that the total number of Russian sappers and detector dog handlers that will be engaged in the mine clearing operation in the city of Palmyra in Syria will reach some 100 people. He said that the mine clearing operation would last several months at least. The Russian military are to demine not only the city’s historic part, but also residential areas and approach routes to Palmyra.
The Syrian army said on Sunday that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra with support from the Russian air group. The city, which is called a "gem" of the Syrian desert, was one of the richest centers of ancient civilization. The Great Silk Road ran through Palmyra, located in an oasis 240 km from Damascus. The extant ruins of the ancient city are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list.
Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province some 210 kilometers from Damascus, was seized by gunmen of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in early summer 2015. The Syrian authorities said back then that Palmyra with its monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, could share the fate of Iraq’s ancient cities of Assur, Nimrud and Hatra that were destroyed by Islamic State militants.