Houthi mines at 500,000 spots killed 700 in Yemen

Soldiers loyal to Yemen's government stand next to mines planted by the Houthi rebels in locations where they controlled in frontline in the province of Marib, in this October 4, 2015 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 April 2017

Houthi mines at 500,000 spots killed 700 in Yemen

JEDDAH: Houthi militias and fighters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh continue to plant land and sea mines amid international silence. This is despite the fact that the use of such explosives is considered a crime against humanity, according to Yemeni government and military officials.
As a result, Yemen needs years to eliminate the mines because there are no maps to locate where they were planted. The Houthi militias planted mines in sensitive areas to stop the advance of government forces, especially after the southern governorates have been liberated.
Statistics show that hundreds of civilian victims fell victim to the explosives, killed or maimed, and the figure is increasing due to the spread of the war in urban areas.
Col. Haytham Haloub, chief of the Military Engineering Division in the Fourth Military Region and director of the National Mine Action Center in Aden, said that coup militias planted many mines in a haphazard manner, including the prohibited anti-personnel mines as well as homemade bombs and anti-tank mines.
He added that until last May, engineering teams defused more than 31,000 mines in Aden, Lahj, Abyan and some parts of the Taiz Governorate.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights, in its last report, said the Houthis planted mines at more than 500,000 locations in Yemen, which were responsible for 700 deaths. Engineers of the Arab coalition have dismantled 40,000 mines so far.
The Yemeni government has sought the international community’s help to defuse the mines planted in densely populated areas in the liberated areas.
The government said the mines are banned internationally; pose a threat to life and lead to losses of civilian lives, especially women and children. They are difficult to find because there are no maps with their position, it said.
The government has sought help from the international community because Yemen lacks the required equipment. Yemeni engineering teams, with the support of the Arab Coalition, extracted and dismantle several Iranian-made naval minefields of various sizes.
They were planted by the coup militias on the coasts of the Midi region, in the northwest of Yemen.
One such naval mine hit a boat on the Midi coast, leading to the deaths of eight fishermen. Col. Mohammed Salam Al-Asbahi, commander of the Naval Arrow operation, said the Yemeni Army began the process of combing and clearing the coasts and islands from mines planted by rebel militias.
Al-Asbahi said the locations of the mines were identified and marked to help fishermen avoid dangerous areas. He added that the engineering teams started the disposal process, dragging the mines to one of the unpopulated islands where they are detonated.
Omar Jawhar, brigadier general of the Fifth Military Region War in Midi, said the aim is to clear the Red Sea islands and coasts of Iranian mines.
In statements to the media, he said the process is not limited to sea mines only, but covers the wild coasts of Midi.
He added the mines lifted from the Red Sea came from Iran. The discovery corroborates testimony by Gen. Joseph Foteil, US commander of the American forces in the Middle East, to the US Congress Armed Forces Committee that Houthi rebels are strongly supported by Iran and threaten shipping in the Hormouz and strategic Bab Al-Mandab straits. He said: “Houthis, with Iran’s support, spread along the Hormouz rockets and radar systems, in addition to mines and explosive boats.”
He added that the Arab coalition forces thwarted an attempt to smuggle mines over sea routes to the western beaches of Yemen.

Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 10 min 18 sec ago

Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.