Security

Floods uncover Houthi mines planted in several Yemeni provinces

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A picture shows flooded waters in Yemen's Marib province on August 4th, 2020. The floods have uncovered minefields laid by the Iran-backed Houthis and swept camouflaged explosives into villages in several provinces, officials say. [AFP]

Heavy downpours that triggered flooding across Yemen in recent weeks uncovered minefields laid haphazardly by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), officials said.

Flooding is common in Yemen at this time of year, but it has been particularly severe this year.

At least 172 people have been killed across Yemen since mid-July, according to official sources and local authorities.

In the capital Sanaa, 106 buildings, including five in the Old City, have been destroyed so far and 156 damaged, a source at the Houthi Health Ministry told AFP.

Camouflaged mines

The flooding also uncovered the Houthis' minefields in al-Hodeidah, Saada, al-Dhale and Hajjah provinces, officials from the legitimate government said. They contained various types of explosives including anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, in addition to camouflaged improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

While the heavy rains were damaging in many areas, the floods also "facilitated the mine clearance efforts and the uncovering of these minefields that the Houthi militia laid without maps because it deliberately seeks to kill the Yemeni people", Deputy Ministry of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

He noted that in the negotiations held between the legitimate government and the Houthis, the government demanded maps from the Houthis, but to no avail.

The floods that swept down from the mountains in Ibb province washed up dozens of mines laid by the Houthis to block the advance of the joint forces towards their former positions, Fouad Jabbari, military spokesman for the al-Dhale axis, told al-Ayyam newspaper on June 23rd.

Specialised mine-clearance teams of the Military Engineering Division responded to citizens' reports and rushed to the sites where the mines were located, where they surveyed the area and disabled the mines, he said.

The Houthis laid the mines without maps, which makes it difficult for the engineering teams to clear them, he added.

In the city of Hays, south of al-Hodeidah, engineering teams of the UAE-backed 11th al-Amaliqah (Giants) Brigade also defused Houthi-laid mines uncovered by the floods.

The Brigade's media centre confirmed August 8th that the floods washed mines onto civilian roads used in the village of Beit Maghari in Hays, but engineering teams were able to successfully defuse them.

The mines even found their way across the border into Saudi Arabia where Col. Mohammed bin Yahya al-Ghamdi, spokesman for the Civil Defence in the Jazan region, said August 16th an IED camouflaged as a rock was swept by the floods from Yemeni territory into Saudi territory.

The Civil Defence in Ahad al-Masarihah province in southern Saudi Arabia immediately dispatched specialists to the site, where they followed the necessary security precautions to dismantle the mine, al-Ghamdi said, adding that no injuries were recorded at the site.

'Iranian strategy' to harm civilians

"The Houthi militias deliberately laid mines in citizens' farms and crossroads used by civilians in rural areas," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"The majority of victims of the mines are women, children and the elderly, none of whom fight or take up arms against the Houthis," he said.

Ahmed said laying mines is "an Iranian strategy that the Houthis implement when they withdraw or are expelled from areas they control to retaliate against the people of the areas they lose and inflict the highest number of casualties".

"This burdens the government since it is responsible for caring for the victims," he added.

Political analyst Adel al-Shujaa urged citizens to avoid going near suspected mined areas and refrain from touching suspicious objects washed up by the floods.

"As for the government, it must submit a formal complaint to the UN on this matter and rally organisations working in this field to pressure the Houthis not to lay mines and to provide maps of their location," he told Al-Mashareq.

Between June 2018 and August 14th, 2020, the MASAM project, sponsored by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief), has removed 179,698 mines, unexploded ordnance and IEDs from a number of areas in Yemen, according to Osama al-Qusaibi, director general of the MASAM project.

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