Houthi Landmines Pose Lingering Threat in Yemen

Houthi Landmines Pose Lingering Threat in Yemen

Thursday, 6 December, 2018 - 18:45
A soldier loyal to Yemen's government stands on the back of a truck transporting land mines left by the Houthis. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Months after heavy clashes between the Iran-backed Houthi militias and pro-government fighters forced them to flee their coastal village in Yemen’s western province of Taiz, the Ghaleb family had finally returned home.

But their relief was cut short just days later when a landmine left in their home exploded, wounding their seven-year-old son.

The blast ripped off one of Abdullah’s thumbs and left him with a compound fracture to one of his legs, said an AFP report Thursday.

In their humble home in the village of Al-Hameli, between the towns of Mokha and Hays, relatives help the boy into a wheelchair, covering him with a bright pink blanket.

"We took refuge east of the town of Bayt Al-Faqih and returned home after the fighters left," said Abdel Fattah Ghaleb, Abdallah’s father, motioning towards their hut made of dry branches.

"Two or three days after returning, a device exploded inside our home," he said, adding that Abdullah had been lucky to be rushed to a clinic supported by international medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Devastated by hunger and war, civilians on Yemen’s western coast, south of the flashpoint port of Hodeidah, are coming face to face with the lingering threat posed by thousands of landmines planted mostly by the Houthis.

The militias have been accused by human rights groups of extensively using landmines to hinder the advance of pro-government forces.

"Houthi forces have repeatedly laid anti-personnel, anti-vehicle and improvised mines as they withdrew from areas in Aden, Taiz, Marib and, more recently, along Yemen's western coast," Human Rights Watch said.

Not far from Al-Hameli, children walk barefoot through the dusty desert terrain along the edge of a minefield, demarcated by small rocks and a red and white sign marked with a skull and crossbones.

Here, mine clearing teams are searching the sand trying to remove the dangerous devices, said AFP.

"Following lots of suffering, exhaustion and threats while living as displaced, we thought we will find rest in our home," said Abdullah's uncle Abdel Latif.

"Instead we found the threat of landmines, among others."

Hassan al-Jahwari, head of the Saudi-backed Masam landmine clearance project, said he had 16 teams working around Mokha to clear mines.

"The first team arrived in August and in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program, we were able to clear 9,000 mines planted by the Huthis in addition to other explosive devices," Jahwari said according to AFP.

In Nuhaira, another village on the west coast, 18-year-old Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim is mourning his father, who died trying to save him after he was wounded by a mine.

"I was returning from a fishing trip along with my brother and a friend ... I stepped on a mine that tore my leg off and threw me to the ground," Ibrahim said.

His brother and friend narrowly escaped and quickly ran to fetch Ibrahim's father.

"He came to my rescue but as he approached, he stepped on a mine and died in front of me," he said.

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