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Since early April, a tenuous truce has ended fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in Yemen. However, truce or not, hundreds of civilians were killed during this period by landmines laid by the rebels. An NGO, Project Masam, is working frantically to remove landmines and prevent further tragedies.

Since 2014, Yemen has been torn by conflict between the Houthis, rebels backed by Iran, and pro-government forces, backed by a military coalition led by neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis have been the laying of landmines across the country since 2017 – in fields, villages and along roads – especially in the coastal regions of Hodeidah and Taiz. For the rebels, landmines are an effective means of stopping the advance of pro-government troops. This was certainly the case in 2018 when fighting intensified in Taiz and Hodeidah.

Between 2019 and August 2022, an estimated 426 civilians were killed by landmines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance, including 101 children and 22 women, according to the Yemeni Landmine Observatory. The Observatory has also identified 568 people injured by these machines, including 216 children and 48 women.

This NGO documents the names of landmine victims. They often share images of demining operations on their Twitter account.

These anti-tank landmines were discovered by residents of the Marib region.

An unprotected Chabwa man removes an anti-tank landmine discovered on a country road. This man was able to remove 50 mines, according to this tweet.

“Locally made mines are among the most dangerous, because they explode at the slightest pressure”

Walid Al Jaouri is the spokesperson for Masam Projectan NGO that has been carrying out demining operations since 2018 in several Yemeni governorates.

We have 32 teams of deminers trained by international experts. We work every day from 6 a.m. to noon.

We have been able to clear 356,758 landmines since we started work in 2018. We have also removed 212,299 unexploded ordnance, 7,462 improvised explosive devices, 131,459 anti-tank mines and 5,538 anti-personnel mines.

This young man from Taiz volunteered to help with demining operations but was injured in an explosion and lost all his limbs.

Our teams were able to clear an area of ​​38,034,720 square meters in eight different governorates – Al Jawf, Chabwa, Ma’rib, al-Hodeida, Taiz, Aden, Ad Dali’ and Lahij.

There are basically two types of mines: conventional anti-personnel mines and locally made mines produced by the Houthis in their own factories. These locally made mines come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are often built with different purposes. They represent 85% of the mines that we have neutralized.

This shows an improvised explosive device neutralized by volunteers from the Masam project. © Masam Project

Locally made mines are among the most dangerous, as they explode at the slightest pressure.

There are several types of mines that are made locally. The Houthis placed landmines attached to electrical circuits and placed them near entrances to villages and heavily populated areas. Then there are petal mines, which are actually anti-vehicle mines, but the Houthis have made them extremely dangerous anti-personnel mines because they can be detonated by very light pressure on the petal.

These anti-personnel mines, collected by volunteers from the Masam Project, are about to be destroyed.
These anti-personnel mines, collected by volunteers from the Masam Project, are about to be destroyed. © Masam Project

“We found explosive devices hidden in cans of beans”

Our team has also worked to neutralize improvised explosive devices that the Houthis have planted in common objects like bricks, rocks and tires.

Volunteers from the Masam project found this explosive placed in a fake cinder block.
Volunteers from the Masam project found this explosive placed in a fake cinder block. © Masam Project

Recently, we found a lot of explosives placed in old tires in Bihan area in Chabwa governorate.

Anti-personnel mines collected by Project Masam deminers.
Anti-personnel mines collected by Project Masam deminers. © Masam Project

We also found explosive devices hidden in bean boxes, filled with pieces of iron and gunpowder. We also found explosive devices hidden in rocks which were later planted along some roads. We even found explosive devices hidden in palm trees in agricultural areas of Hodeidah.

We also found explosives hidden in bean cans, filled with pieces of iron and gunpowder. We also found explosive devices hidden in rocks which were later planted along some roads. We even found explosive devices hidden in palm trees in agricultural areas of Hodeidah.

Since the truce began, people have taken to social media to call on the Houthis to provide maps mines they have placed in order to facilitate demining operations and save lives.

Yemen is a signatory to the 1997 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits anti-personnel mines.



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