ISIS Digging Up Nazi Mines to Wage Northern Africa War

A Newsweek report details how Islamist militants are mining World War II explosives buried in the Sahara sands for use in their wars in Egypt and Libya.

Nazi General Erwin Rommel at the First Battle of El Alamein, Egypt, June 1942.
German Federal Archives / WikiMedia Commons

ISIS militants are salvaging World War II explosives from Nazi landmines and British ammunition buried deep in the Sahara to wage war in Egypt and across northern Africa, according to a Newsweek report.

Some 17 million land mines are still reportedly stuck in the sands of northwest Egypt, dating back to the 1940s battles between the German and British armies. For years, Bedouin suffered the most from the minefields. Various jihadist groups, however, have lately employed these explosives to make bombs.

“We’ve had at least 10 reports from the military of terrorists using old mines," Fathy el-Shazly, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and onetime Egyptian land mine clearance czar, is quoted as saying.

“Even now, these things trouble us in different ways,” Shazly says, pointing to how the militants have been making use of the old ordnance since 2004, when 34 people were killed in an explosion in the Sinai resort of Taba with bombs made of old ammunition.

While these militants have more sophisticated weapons at their disposal, occasional supply problems make it tempting to use the relics of Hitler's war instead.

In IED attack on an army convoy near Egypt's Red Sea coast that killed five soldiers was blamed on explosives made from old mines.

The old weaponry has also surfaced in conflict in Iraq, where Kurdish pershmerga have seized a 1942 Enfield rifle from ISIS in the country's north.

Oddly enough Egypt's minefields are dreaded not only for providing ISIS with weapons but also for helping them elude capture, now that they know how to navigate the minefields of Egypt and chaotic Libya.

Newsweek writes, quoting Shazly, that because the militants have no fear of stumbling on army patrols who avoid contaminated areas, the desert has “become a refuge for them.”