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One of the biggest challenges to getting a handle on the mine situation in Bosnia was the very haphazard nature of mine warfare during the war. Minefield standards varied from unit to unit, and civilian militia emplaced mines disregarding any set or understandable pattern. To compound the difficulty in mine-clearing operations after war, many minefields went unrecorded. Soldiers deploying to such theaters in the future will face the same problems. During predeployment training, soldiers must become familiar with the unique techniques used by combatants during the preceding conflict. Appendix A provides a list of resources units should consider in training soldiers on specific mines and emplacement techniques used throughout the world. At a minimum, soldiers should be given mine data cards describing the mines likely to be encountered in the area of operations (AO).

Mines Found in the Former Yugoslavia

The former Yugoslavia (YO) was a major producer of mines. The majority of mine factories were located in Serbia. While some non-former Yugoslavia mines were found in the B-H region, the vast majority were produced in the Former Yugoslavia. Much of the mine development concentrated upon defeating enemy detection equipment; thus many antipersonnel (AP) and antitank (AT) land mines produced were completely nonmetallic, constructed with plastic casings and friction-sensitive chemical fuses encased in Bakelite. These mines are essentially undetectable by the typical hand-held magnetic mine detector, which requires a metallic mass for detection. Additionally, many of the land mines were equipped with anti-handling devices, which greatly enhanced the danger in mine lifting. The figure below outlines the system of nomenclature used to identify the various mines and fuses used.

Mines of the Former Yugoslavia

During Operation DESERT STORM, U.S. Army engineers faced unique challenges presented by the abundance of blast-hardened mines (usually of Italian origin) that degraded the effectiveness of the mine-clearing line charge (MICLIC) countermine system.

Unique Minefield Techniques

As a rule of thumb, the doctrine for land mine and obstacle emplacement generally follows that of the former Soviet Union (FSU), with minor variations. Because battle lines shifted, minefields were frequently moved. Minefield sizes, configurations, patterns, and AP-AT mine mixtures within each minefield varied across the entire region. Factions also used unique emplacement techniques to increase the effectiveness of the minefields. Listed below are some of the techniques encountered in the AO.

  • Several AT or AP mines have reportedly been stacked with an anti-disturbance device between the mines. When the stack is separated by hand or a plow blade, the anti-disturbance fuse detonates the mines.

  • Mines placed on wooden boards. As a vehicle approached, the board with mines attached were slid into the path of the vehicle.

  • As a point obstacle, the TMRP-6 AT mine is mounted sideways along a roadway or trail with its tilt rod extending horizontally. A trip wire is then attached to the tilt rod and stretched across the target area. When a vehicle or person passes the target and hits the trip wire, the mine detonates. The flying metal plate and incidental fragmentation become projectiles (with a range of 45 meters) that impact the side of the target, causing its destruction.

  • In some instances, AP mine trip wires were attached to surface-laid AT mines on road ways. When AT mines were moved, the AP mine would detonate nearby.

  • Factions connected mines using detonation cord and placing a "demo knot" under each mine in a minefield. When one mine detonated, all the adjacent mines also detonated. This technique is known as "daisy chaining."

  • Mines were placed in berms on roads to disrupt countermine efforts.

Many minefields emplaced on or near roads and intersections, bypasses were reinforced with other obstacles to enhance effectiveness. The roadblock diagrams below illustrate the techniques used to emplace mines or minefields.

The majority of the minefields emplaced by the factions were situated along battlelines located in the vicinity of the ZOS. Because of the mountainous terrain in Bosnia, most of the lines of communication (LOCs), especially vehicular movement, were limited to a number of roadways and trails. This created an ideal situation for the use of point minefields at critical points or strategic locations. Checkpoints and obvious rest areas along roads were mined. Mines were also emplaced in and around abandoned buildings and structures. Mines were placed around airfields, basecamps, trench lines, and bridges. Standardization of factional unit mine emplacement techniques included the following minefield types:

  • Pure AT Minefields
  • Pure AP Minefields
  • Mixed Minefields
  • Anti-landing Minefields
  • Dummy or Decoy Minefields

Pure AT Minefields. Pure antitank (AT) minefields were intended to destroy or disable armored vehicles and were usually located along high-speed avenues of approach. Frequently, a pure AT minefield would have an AP minefield placed in front of it to strip away the attacking infantry and to deter enemy sappers.

Pure AP Minefields. Pure antipersonnel (AP) minefields were emplaced along dismounted avenues of approach to target personnel.

Mixed Minefields. Mixed Minefields contain both AT and AP mines.

Mine Groups (GRUPA MINA). Mine groups of 15 to 20 mines were frequently emplaced as point obstacles on roadways and intersections and usually consisted of both AT and AP mines. The AT mines, which were buried, placed in potholes, or surface laid, interdicted the roadway, while AP mines prohibited off-road, dismounted movement. In many cases abatis, "dragon's teeth," and other fabricated obstacles were used to reinforce point minefields. AP pressure-fused blast mines were placed in the ditches and along the roadway shoulders. Directional fragmentation mines (MRUDs) were placed on the ground or in trees, and trip-wire activated mines were hidden along footpaths.

Full-Size AT Minefields ( MINSKO POLJE) observed in Bosnia conformed closely to former Soviet Union (FSU) specifications.

These minefields contained AT mines emplaced about 4 meters (13.1 feet) apart generally in straight rows. Mine rows were echeloned (or staggered) so that each row was offset l meter (3.3 feet) from the row adjacent to it. This was done to increase minefield lethality by ensuring no mine was directly behind another when approached by the enemy. Each row was then separated by approximately 30 meters (32.8 yards), although some deviation was noted, ranging between 20 and 40 meters (21.9 and 43.8 yards). Doctrinal, FSU-style AT minefields, arrayed to protect key installations or facilities, would normally have three or four rows of AT mines.

Anti-landing Minefields were used to prevent both amphibious (river mines) and airborne or air mobile assaults. One technique used was to emplace several TMRP-6 mines to deny potential helicopter landing areas by attaching a small metal "sail" to each mine's tilt rod. These sails would catch the rotor wash of a helicopter which would tilt the rods, detonate the mines and project fragments and metal plates upward into the aircraft.

Dummy or Decoy Minefields were used for deception and to conceal actual minefield locations or the disposition of obstacle systems. Occasionally, decoy mine-warning signs were used as a decoy. Some decoy minefields had a small number of real mines in them to aid the deception. These training mines usually were marked with yellow rings or stripes. In other cases, some live mines were marked with training-mine markings.

Minefield Indicators. It is important for soldiers to be trained in the basics of identifying, marking, and reporting the presence of mines and minefield, including mine components and detonation systems. With over 2,700 different types of mines in the world today, it is impossible to know them all, but deploying units must understand which mines are prevalent in an AO to which they deploy.

Minefield indicators are visual signs that mines may be near. In peace operations, local civilians and local militia may provide assistance in locating minefields and booby traps.


  • Areas avoided by locals nationals
  • Untended farm fields
  • Unused walking trails
  • Signs of digging
  • Burnt soil
  • Evidence of mine-peculiar supplies (wretches, shipping plugs, etc.)
  • Boxes or parcels along the road
  • Wires on road surfaces
  • Pieces of wood or debris on road
  • Signs of road repair (new fill, paving, road patches, ditching or culvert work)
  • Mine signs
  • Earth craters or berms
  • Damaged vehicles
  • Dead animals
  • Signs of concrete/asphalt removal
  • Disturbances in tire tracks
  • Disturbances in pothole or puddles
  • Odd patterns in the soil
  • Ditches

Minefield Markings

Minefield Markings were accomplished in a variety of ways. One technique was to use red or yellow barrier tape on the minefield perimeter. Other markings included signal cable, rope, wire, cord or string. Typically, markings were white with red lettering or red with white lettering. Words associated with minefields included MNHE or MINE (mine or mines), MINIRANO (minefields), and PROLAZ (safe lane). The skull-and-crossbones symbol was used by both sides to denote mines.

Sometimes mine reference points consisted of three wraps around a tree or symbols painted on triangular signs.

Discrete or expedient minefield-marking techniques included rock piles, broken branches on trees, and crossed sticks on a road.

Former Warring Factions

All combatants in Bosnia were involved in mine warfare during the war. Primary forces in the region included:

  • Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), consisting of ethnic Serbs in the (B-H) province.

  • The Chetniks, or Serbian irregulars, operating throughout the former Yugoslavia.

  • Croatian Defense Forces (HVO), controlled from Croatia but operating in B-H.

  • Bosnian Croatian forces, nominally under the control of either Croatian leaders or the B-H government.

  • Muslim forces (ABiH), generally under the control of local commanders.

  • Local civilian militias.

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