Next time you’re in Kabul, Afghanistan, one place I strongly suggest checking out (if you have not already done so) is the OMAR Mine Museum. OMAR is an acronym for Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation. Now, if you go by what the OMAR home page says or by what you might find online, you will be misled into thinking that you can’t visit the OMAR Mine Museum by quotes such as this:
“For security reasons, the OMAR Mine Museum is not open for casual visitors. All appointments must be made through the main OMAR office.”
Not true. As with most things in Afghanistan, just ignore the official rules and do what you think is best. Of course, be polite about it and be prepared to pay a little baksheesh if needed… However, I just showed up at the museum and had no trouble at all. The museum director himself came out to visit me and gave me a personal tour of the interior and exterior of the museum. A very nice guy…
And here’s a picture of the very nice guard at the gate… He saw me taking a picture as I was leaving and he started yelling across the courtyard at me. I thought I was getting in trouble for taking pictures of the security measures at the museum, but it turned out that he just wanted me to take his picture as well.
And then here are some pictures from inside the OMAR Museum… The museum director told me that these are all things OMAR employees have found out in the field.
The walls of the museum are lined with rockets and other tools of war:
The classic demining outfit:
The tools of the demining trade – metal detectors, protective gear, probes, etc.
Not that the gear pictured above makes it a safe profession. Each piece of the gear pictured below belonged to an OMAR employee or volunteer killed in the field. Yes, every little item below belonged to a different person that was killed:
An Afghan war rug depicting many of the nasties that OMAR personnel contend with:
A Misnay Schardin Shaped Charge (designed for a belly attack) linked by detonating cord to an anti-tank mine supplied by the CIA to the mujahideen.
Diameter 185 mm
Height 80 mm
Explosive Charge: 1.5 kgs approx. C4 Plastic explosive
A large display of land mines… The plastic mines are unpleasant to locate because the metal detectors obviously don’t work on them. One must feel around for them.
Most mines are antipersonnel devices, cheap, small and designed to maim rather than kill. A wounded soldier is a bigger drain on the enemy than a dead one. Some mines are put just under the ground to blast up while other mines are used above ground to spray debris. These mines are usually planted to protect camps, set ambushes or slow down pursuing soldiers. Typically they use a trip wire and are never marked or documented.
A mine contains extremely explosive material that creates a wall of air and debris that expands outward at almost 7,000 meters a second. Some mines add metal projectiles like ball bearings, sharp flechettes or even nails that puncture flesh and shred bones into a fine spray. The shock waves are so strong that many victims find their feet still in their shoes and their bones turned into projectiles that kill other people.
Some of the triggers on the various land mines taken out of “service” by OMAR:
Bricks of TNT:
A large anti-tank IED (Improvised Explosive Device) made by the Mujahideen in 1984 or 1985 from a pressure cooker containing 25 kilograms of explosives. Found by OMAR Manual Mine Clearance Team D on February 16th, 2004 in the Adraskan District which is part of the Herat Province.
Coordinates North – 33 41 281 East – 062 16 546
OMAR also does a lot of work with unexploded ordnance (UXO) such as these rockets:
Or these which include a nice selection of mortars:
An innovative booby trap OMAR defused:
The classic Molotov Cocktail – everyone’s favorite:
Some of the AK-47 variations out there:
The Punt Gun is basically a very large shotgun which can be up to 1.5 inch caliber (38 mm), with a cartridge containing up to 1 kilogram of lead birdshot.
Traditional Afghan rifles:
The OMAR Mine Museum is not just an inside exhibition though. There’s a hell of a display of equipment outside as well…
Starting with this jet parked in the parking lot. What do you park next to at the end of your daily commute to work? By the way, remember what I said about the OMAR museum director telling me that everything here was stuff they found out in the field?
Certainly not the only aircraft on the grounds of the museum…
A modern jet with old cannons underneath – an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new:
Another fighter jet:
A Soviet helicopter gunship. These were devastating to the Afghan fighters until the United States began supplying them with SAM (Surface to Air) missiles such as the famous Stinger:
Slightly older aircraft:
One area I found particularly interesting was a display of Soviet rocketry…
Soviet rocketry – these were BIG:
Soviet rocket engines:
War machinery lining the walls of the compound:
I had this picture taken of me to demonstrate the size of some of the artillery shells:
Rocket launchers – usually attached to a vehicle such as a helicopter:
A U.S. 500 pound bomb
Mk 82 GPLD (General Purpose Low Drag) HE Guided Bomb deflagrated in Kabul in November 2001.
As I stated above, the OMAR Mine Museum really is worth a visit. The employees are great, you get to see a lot of interesting things and they (OMAR) are doing good work. Regardless of one’s feelings on a particular conflict, it’s tough to make a case for indiscriminately strewing land mines around. They stay around long after a conflict has ended and are not picky in whom they maim or kill be it animals or children minding their own business or whomever…