RIYADH: A team of explosive safety experts in Yemen have been killed by a consignment of Houthi land mines that blew up while they were being transported to be destroyed.
The five technicians — two from South Africa, one from Croatia, one from Bosnia and one from Kosovo — were part of the Saudi de-mining program in Yemen, known as Masam Project. Its aim is to locate and destroy explosive devices illegally planted by Iranian-backed Houthi militias.
The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) said on Monday that the five experts had died in the explosion in Marib governorate early on Sunday. A vehicle carrying mines and other devices exploded while en route from Masam Project’s headquarters to a remote location, where they were to be destroyed.
“KSRelief joins with the rest of the international community in mourning the loss of these highly committed professionals, and expresses its deepest condolences to their families,” the center said.
“These brave members of the Masam team lost their lives while attempting to bring safety and security to the Yemeni people, and their service to mankind will not be forgotten.
“A full investigation into the tragic incident has been launched in coordination with Masam Project experts and local authorities.”
Ousama Algosaibi, the managing director of Masam Project, wrote heartfelt tributes to his collagues on Twitter.
“ H “ My brother, my friend and my trusted advisor. Allah only knows how I feel with your loss. Life and work will never be the same without you. RIP my brother. @MasamProject @JohanHdenHaan1 @ALSHAHRANI_EOD pic.twitter.com/Dy1ybl5uMv— Ousama Algosaibi (@AlgosaibiOusama) January 21, 2019
The Houthis have planted more than a million land mines in Yemen, in violation of UN rules. They have caused more than 1,539 deaths, injured more than 3,000 and caused permanent disability to more than 900 Yemenis.
“These five people were doing noble work,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, told Arab News.
“They were trying to save the lives of Yemeni people, as opposed to the Houthis, whose only aim is to cause chaos and mayhem.”
Al-Shehri said Saudi Arabia had constantly reminded the world community of the atrocities being committed by the Houthis against the Yemeni people.
“Saudi Arabia cares for the people of Yemen. It went into Yemen to save the Yemeni people from the Houthis who held them hostage,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia continues to provide humanitarian relief despite the Houthis creating all sorts of obstacles and trying to keep the relief away from the needy civilians of Yemen.”
For Saudi Arabia, the people of Yemen came first, Al-Shehri said. “Saudi Arabia went into Yemen as part of an Arab coalition to rescue the Yemeni people from the clutches of their abductors — the Houthis. It is the people of Yemen who are suffering because of the arms and ammunition and these deadly land mines that have been supplied by Iran. They have no care for human life.”
On Monday, UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the capital, Sanaa, on an unannounced visit to discuss the “complex situation” in and around the coastal city of Hodeidah,
Yemen’s warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in the port last month.
Also under discussion from Monday will be disagreements between the Houthi militia, who hold Hodeidah, and Retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, who is heading a UN mission charged with monitoring the cease-fire.
The Yemeni military and the Arab Coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, has accused the Houthis of hundreds of violations of the agreement, which have killed almost 50 civilians and wounded hundreds more.