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Yemen: landmines have killed over 400 people since 2019

September 8, 2022 at 2:33 pm

Landmines on September 22, 2018 [Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images]

More than 400 civilians have been killed in Yemen due to landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other unexploded ordnance across several province since 2019, a local monitoring organisation has reported.

“From mid-2019 to early August 2022, we documented 426 civilian deaths, including 101 children and 22 women, in addition to 568 wounded, including 216 children and 48 women, as a result of mines, IEDs and unexploded ordnance left over from war in a number of governorates,” tweeted Yemeni Landmine Records.

The figures follow comments made a fortnight ago by an official in the Saudi-based, internationally-recognised Yemeni government about the long-term challenge that landmines pose to Yemen. The Director of Yemen’s National Mine Action Programme, Brigadier General Amin Al-Aqili, said that it will take decades to resolve the issue of the mines, for which he blamed the Iran-backed Houthi movement.

Aqili noted that the Houthi forces have continued to plant the explosives despite the ongoing nationwide truce, which each side has accused the other of violating. The official added that the Houthis have systematically planted the locally-manufactured mines and have accurate maps of their locations. Recent floods in Yemen have also displaced the mines, adding to the risk of injury and death, he warned.

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In April, Yemen’s Deputy Minister of Human Rights, Nabil Abdul-Hafeez, said that estimates show that Houthis planted over two million landmines, while more than 500,000 have been cleared. Despite the Saudi-led coalition carrying out over 25,000 air raids in Yemen since 2015, the demining initiative funded by Riyadh, the Masam project which started in mid-2018, has so far located and destroyed over 350,000 explosive devices, including over 5,000 anti-personnel mines and over 131,000 anti-tank mines.

The Masam website explains that anti-tank mines generally require a great deal of pressure to detonate, but have effectively been converted into devastating anti-personnel mines, because, “Houthi militias have managed to devise methods of reducing the amount [of pressure required].”

According to analysis by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, from the 1960s to the 1990s, landmines were laid by opposing sides during several Yemeni conflicts and civil wars. However, Yemen was notable in being the first Arab country to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel mines completely.

Yemen achieved this as a result of signing the Ottawa Demining Treaty, which prohibits the laying, manufacturing and importing of mines. By destroying its stockpile of mines by 2007, it was close to declaring itself a mine-free country. As tensions and conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government increased, however, so too did mine laying, particularly in 2014 after the Houthis and allied military forces took over the capital Sanaa in what became known as the 21 September Revolution.

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