Five experts killed clearing Houthi landmines for Saudi charity in Yemen

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The men died when an explosion took place in a vehicle carrying recovered landmines. (Masam Project)
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The landmines were being taken early on Sunday to be destroyed in Marib. (Masam Project)
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The Masam Project has removed more than 40,000 landmines in Yemen. (Masam Project)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Five experts killed clearing Houthi landmines for Saudi charity in Yemen

  • The two South Africans, a Croatian, a Bosnian and a Kosovar were killed in Marib province
  • Yemen government condemns Houthis for planting thousands of landmines

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.

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. 


Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.