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In their simplest form, landmines are victim-activated explosive traps, whether the intended target is a person or a vehicle. A mine comprises a quantity of explosive, normally contained within some form of casing (typically in metal, plastic or wood), and a fuzing mechanism to detonate the main explosive charge. Some are buried under the ground, while others are placed on stakes or fixed to objects above the ground. They can be activated by a range of mechanisms including pressure, trip wire, electrical command or magnetic influence. Some modern mines can be initiated using other forms of electronic sensor.

Landmines are generally classified into two categories:

  • anti-tank (or anti-vehicle) and
  • anti-personnel

Anti-personnel mines are also commonly further divided into four categories based on their primary method of causing injury:

  • blast
  • fragmentation
  • bounding fragmentation
  • directional fragmentation