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IS fighters hiding bombs in teddy bears and TVs, say medics in Syria

Medics working in war-ravaged Syria have reported that fleeing fighters are planting booby trap bombs in TVs and teddies.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) called for demining work to be urgently stepped up as Islamic State retreat and leave behind deadly indiscriminate devices, unexploded ordnance and a landscape littered with mines.

Testimony from doctors, patients and their families in northern Syria revealed a shocking catalogue of hidden threats planted in roads, fields and houses.

Karline Kleijer, MSF's emergency manager for Syria, said: "It is extremely dangerous for people returning to their homes.

"Booby traps have been planted everywhere, under the carpet, in the fridge, even in children's teddy bears."

MSF's new report on the warzone, called "Set to explode", said hundreds of people have been killed or maimed as they return to homes and villages once held by Islamic State as the frontlines in the north of the country shift.

The charity quoted an unnamed explosive ordnance disposal expert who worked in northern Syria.

They warned that booby traps and mines were left to hinder enemies, but also to deliberately and indiscriminately target people returning to their homes.

As well as being put in the ground, bombs were being hidden in doorways or under objects likely to attract adults and children, such as teddy bears, dolls, fridges and televisions.

Some are cased in steel to inflict maximum casualties through shrapnel.

In the weeks after Islamic State fighters were pushed out of the Ayn Al Arab/Kobane areas in 2015, MSF said it has records of 67 people being killed or injured by 45 explosions.

MSF, which runs six medical facilites in northern Syria, carried out interviews from last October to February. It said that in four weeks last summer, hospital staff in the Manbij area alone treated more than 190 people injured by blasts from explosive devices.

The report includes testimony from Jasem, a resident of Jirn village, near Tal Abyad, who lives in a house with two mines planted metres from the door.

"I can't sleep because I'm always worried that one of my four children, or a dog or a sheep, will step on one of the mines around the house. When an animal approaches the house, we all run away in case it detonates a mine," he said.

The MSF report said the aftermath of Islamic State's occupation of the Ayn Al Arab/Kobane and Manbij areas is strikingly similar to the aftermath in Palmyra and Ramadi in Iraq and Sirte in Libya.

No humanitarian agency or military force is in Syria to start demining so some local police and untrained and ill-equipped local people take on the job, the charity said.

Ms Kleijer said: "People are risking their lives to make their villages safe. We heard about five local men in Ayn Al Arab/Kobane who volunteered to clear houses of mines to earn some money. None of those men are alive today."

MSF called on all sides involved in the war in Syria to allow humanitarian demining activities in the north of the country and for western nations to significantly step up support for the work.

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