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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Saudi Arabia launches mine clearance project in Yemen

Explosives planted by Houthi rebels have killed more than 1,500 people

Houthis rebels have been planting landmines across Yemen. Victor Besa / The National
Houthis rebels have been planting landmines across Yemen. Victor Besa / The National

More than 1,500 people have been killed and 3,000 injured by landmines laid by Houthis in Yemen between 2014 and 2016, according to a recent report by Saudi Arabian authorities.

Saudi Arabia – which is leading the Arab Coalition against the Iran-backed rebels on behalf of the internationally-recognised Yemeni government – started a project to clear liberated areas of mines and to educate nine million people in the dangers of the anti-personnel devices.

Launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, $40 million (Dh146.9m) will be allocated to a project called Life Without Landmines. So far, it has provided victims of landmines with 305 prosthetic limbs.

Since the start of the war in 2015, the Houthis have planted more than 600,000 landmines across Yemen and 130,000 sea mines along the Red Sea coast of Yemen, the report said.

“The Houthis are manufacturing and planting mines targeting unarmed civilians, causing permanent casualties and loss of life,” said Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, director general of the centre.

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Human Rights Watch has said Houthi forces used landmines in at least six provinces since the coalition – which includes the UAE – intervened in Yemen in March 2015.

The Armed Forces have cleared more than 20,000 landmines.

Members of the UAE Armed Forces secure an area while searching for landmines in Al Mokha, Yemen on March 6, 2018. Aziz El Yaakoubi / Reuters
Members of the UAE Armed Forces secure an area while searching for landmines in Al Mokha, Yemen on March 6, 2018. Aziz El Yaakoubi / Reuters

However, the explosives will take many years to clear.

"We need decades to uproot them. Farmers will not be able to return to cultivate their land, pastoralists will not be able to graze their livestock and fishermen will face the dangers of sea mines,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Hussein Al Yamani said.

He described the project as a model to follow for safety in the country, calling it “a lifeline in the face of the death project”.